Arkansas high court allows oil, gas lawsuit

Paula Dittrick
Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, May 23 -- The Arkansas Supreme Court agreed that legal questions exist regarding what authority state environmental regulators have over activities associated with oil and gas drilling in the Fayetteville shale.

The state's high court on May 21 rejected a request by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to throw out a lawsuit that a plaintiffs' group of Arkansas producers filed against ADEQ in Union County, Ark.

The lawsuit is an attempt to stop ADEQ from issuing two types of general permits. Oil producers claim the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission and the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission have regulatory authority over oil and gas activities.

The general permits involve construction of pits at drillsites and for disposal of wastewater from drilling. Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Brown said it remains unclear whether the ADEQ went beyond its powers.

"Whether [those suing] will prevail on this claim remains to be seen," Brown said. "In any case, it is clear to this court that the issue of ADEQ's legal authority to act as it did needs further development before the circuit courts."

No future hearing dates have been set in Union County Circuit court, an ADEQ spokesman told OGJ. The circuit court previously rejected ADEQ's request to throw out the lawsuit.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has said he wants ADEQ to monitor drilling in the Fayetteville shale. A spokesman for the governor's office said it's too early to tell what effect the lawsuit might have on ADEQ.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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