Did you feel that 4.3 magnitude earthquake Wednesday as you worried about the severe weather coming into the Oklahoma City area?
Welcome to our new reality here. You are forgiven momentarily for your state of disbelief and despair. I was actually looking out the window at the sky in my office window searching for storm clouds when things started shaking. I was left feeling that with just a bit more punch and a longer shaking my office building would have collapsed on top of me. Now, what about those tornadoes? It’s just unbelievable.
The surge in earthquakes here over the last few years, according to scientists, has been caused by the wastewater disposal process used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas. In that process, chemically-laced wastewater from the fracking process is injected by high pressure underground into rock formations. This causes instability in the state’s fault lines triggering earthquakes.
The 5.7 earthquake that struck near Prague and caused damage in 2011 was the largest temblor ever recorded here. But there have been hundreds more earthquakes since then, and Oklahoma now leads the contiguous United States in the number of earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or higher.
This surge in earthquakes here has been widely documented and reported. The New York Times, for example, published a piece last week about the state’s dilemma, and while it really didn’t offer any new information it did lend credibility to an argument presented by myself and others for years.
This is from that published story:
But in a state where oil and gas are economic pillars, elected leaders have been slow to address the problem. And while regulators have taken some protective measures, they lack the money, work force and legal authority to fully address the threats.
More than five years after the quakes began a sharp and steady increase, the strongest action by the Republican governor, Mary Fallin, has been to name a council to exchange information about the tremors. The group meets in secret, and has no mandate to issue recommendations.
The current Republican-dominated legislature is more concerned with protecting the interests of the oil and gas industry through tax breaks and other laws. Meanwhile, what is the impact of hundreds of earthquakes 3.0-magnitude or above? What about the foundations of our homes or the stability of older commercial buildings or the physical stability of our bridges? What about our personal safety if a major earthquake of 6.0 or above strikes in central Oklahoma? Some scientists predict a major quake is sure to strike here.
The oil and gas industry will never willingly take responsibility for any damage done by earthquakes here and the current legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin will do nothing to protect the property and safety of its citizens if it will do financial harm to energy companies.
I imagine watching Fallin on television strolling through the major earthquake damage done in a particular state neighborhood speaking of the “Oklahoma standard” and the resilience of the people here.
This may well be the issue that wakes people up here and leads to a political shift, especially if there’s a major earthquake that does significant damage. The local corporate media is also beginning to report more extensively on the issue, and the national media is now focusing its attention on it.
Here’s the major solution: Let’s put an end to fracking altogether and focus on developing renewable energy sources. This has the added benefit of reducing our carbon emissions and limiting the damage of global warming.
Here’s something the state of Oklahoma could do now: Shut down all wastewater disposal wells in the state.