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Oklahoma City approves $235,000 settlement in lawsuit over stolen water

A green-tinted river surrounded by bare trees.
Graycen Wheeler
The North Canadian River flows through Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, pictured here in January.

Oklahoma City and the city’s Water Utilities Trust have settled a lawsuit against an oil company for stealing water and harming protected lands at the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge.

The Oklahoma City Council voted unanimously to approve the settlement for $190,000, plus $45,000 in legal fees, Tuesday afternoon.

The company, Revolution Resources, operates a well site at the Wiley Post Airport in Bethany, where they started drilling in the spring of 2022. They applied for permits to run temporary waterlines from the North Canadian River to the drilling site, but both Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board rejected them.

The City filed a lawsuit in January saying Revolution and a contractor called Select Energy Services built those lines anyway. According to the lawsuit, they installed three and a half miles of foot-wide pipe along a trail in Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge.

Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge is a swath of OKC-owned land between Bethany and Yukon. It offers a scenic area for hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking and bird watching. On the south side of the refuge, the Hefner Canal branches away from the North Canadian River, carrying water from the river to Lake Hefner, where the city can store it, treat it and send it to homes and businesses. Oklahoma City used the North Canadian and the Hefner Canal to supply drought-stricken Lake Hefner with water from Canton Lake twice last year. The city said Revolution and Select stole some of that water intended for emergency drought relief.

Revolution Resources denied the allegations of wrongdoing, claiming they weren’t responsible for the contractor’s actions and the city and the Water Utillities Trust had operated unethically. A judge refused Revolution’s request to dismiss the suit and have the OCWUT reimburse the company’s legal fees. The company then asked for a settlement in mid-April.

In the original suit, the city requested compensation for at least $75,000 worth of damages, punitive damages and legal fees. In January, The Oklahoman reported Revolution’s CEO believed the suit could cost the company up to $2 million if the court ruled in the city's favor.

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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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