Issue: There Is No Effective/Enforced Requirement For Notification To Surface Owners Of Releases Or Response Actions From Oil/Gas Operations.
Sagasser & Associates, Inc. personnel have been voluntarily working to facilitate a mechanism to require that a Surface (Property) Owner is adequately notified of leaks, spills, etc. of brine, crude oil, glycol, etc. that occur on their property thereby contaminating the soil, groundwater and/or surface water.
Inevitably, spills, leaks, releases, etc. of oil, brine and/or other chemicals from the extraction and processing operations have occurred and will continue to occur. Regulations governing oil and gas production include Part 615 of the Natural Resources Environmental Protection Act (NREPA) [P.A. 451]. The regulations require an operator to notify the Office of Geological Survey (OGS) of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) of releases.
However, there is no effective/enforced requirement that a surface owner of the impacted property be notified of the release or response actions, if any. It is common that mineral rights and surface rights are severed for properties. Nevertheless, environmental impacts resulting from releases including brine can detrimentally affect a surface right owner, and can even result in potential due care responsibilities, restricted property use and/or property devaluation.
The effort did result in a limited notification requirement (Supervisor of Wells Instructions 1-2006) [www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-ogs-instr-1-2006.pdf]. However, full reliance upon the operator and the DEQ-OGS must be made with regard to spills that are "cleaned up" within the 45-day timeframe. No requirement for even receiving a report of the release event and the clean-up action exists. The 45-day timeframe is arbitrary and inappropriate.
Since there is no effective requirement for notification to a surface owner, the rights and potential responsibilities of the surface owner are unjustly compromised.
A surface owner should be provided proper notice of events/activities that affect the environmental integrity of their property. The obvious solution would be to require the operator to provide notice of releases to surface owners concurrently with the MDEQ-OGS notification and to provide advance notice of scheduled response activities, as practical.