Homeowners Fight Re-Opening Of Old Oil Well

Thursday, November 9th 2006, 10:17 am
By: News On 6

If you're a property owner, you could have trouble right under your feet. Homeowners in a Sapulpa neighborhood were shocked to find out the person who owns the mineral rights on their land, wants to re-open as many as four of the old oil wells there.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says they say they hadn't thought about what kind of effect that mineral rights might have on their land. And they say, who knows how many other property owners could face the same thing.

Howard Smith moved from Tulsa to Sapulpa 5 years ago, in part, for the peace and quiet. Something he says would be compromised by an oil well. "Y'know we're concerned about workers being in here. We're concerned about any kind of environmental types of issues and all that stuff."

Smith says Sapulpa has an ordinance against any drilling in city limits. It might come down to whether re-opening a well is defined as new drilling or not.

We reached the driller, Rod Wright, who told us he knows how the homeowners feel and doesn't want to tromp on them. He also said that they "weren't blindsided", that they knew they were moving into an oilfield. But Smith says he was blindsided and points out there are little to no sign to show there was ever a well here. “I knew that there had been drilling going on in here. In fact, when we bought the property, we lived in the pumper's house that they built back in the 40's or 50's I suppose. So sure we knew it was an oil lease. So is it in Glenpool, all over south Tulsa. It hasn't been an oilfield for a while."

It seems like a problem that's likely to crop up more, as more houses get built in what used to be rural areas. And as the price of oil makes it profitable to re-open old, low producing wells.

"How many other areas like this, in south Tulsa, y'know have all these shallow wells, out there in the middle of the million-dollar houses, and if it can happen here, it'd have to be able to happen over there."

Rod Wright says he would try to minimize the impact on the land when re-opening the well. Drillers typically have to pay landowners for what's known as surface damages. As you can imagine, this thing could be headed court.