Anyone concerned with their personal safety and damage to their home or other property because of the dramatic surge in earthquakes here should applaud the new effort by two environmental groups—the local Oklahoma Sierra Club and the national Public Justice—to attempt to solve the problem by putting pressure on the oil and gas industry here to do something about the crisis.
Oklahoma is experiencing an oil and gas production boom, which has predictably driven down energy prices and left the economy here in shambles. Even more importantly, the boom has been been caused by the refinement of the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, drilling process. Virtually all interested and expert scientists claim the wastewater disposal well process used in the fracking process is creating the anticipated 900 earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or above this year in Oklahoma. Fracking and deep horizontal drilling ultimately has NOT been a good thing for Oklahoma despite what the right-wing extremists here want you to believe.
The two organizations have sent letters to Oklahoma companies SandRidge Energy Inc., Devon Energy Corp., Chesapeake Energy Corp. and New Dominion LLC. that outline their intent to file a federal lawsuit against them if they don’t start responding appropriately to the earthquake crisis we all face here, especially in central Oklahoma.
Here’s exactly the type of language we need to be using as we fight for our safety and homes, which comes from Barbara Vanhanken, chairwoman of the Oklahoma affiliate of the national Sierra Club, one of the oldest and most respected environmental groups in the entire world:
I am angry and offended that the oil and gas industry has been so slow to protect Oklahoma and its citizens in the face of this earthquake crisis. Stopping this ever-strengthening earthquake crisis is critical to the health and well-being of all Oklahomans. To ignore the human cost being paid for the earthquake problems tied to oil and gas operations in Oklahoma is cold-blooded and heartless. It reinforces the concept that profits matter more than people.
The organizations, according to a media release, want Chesapeake Energy Corp and the other companies to begin “immediately and substantially reducing the amount of Production Waste injected into the ground; reinforcing structures that are most vulnerable to large magnitude earthquakes; and establishing an independent monitoring and prediction center to forecast the amount of Waste that can be safely injected while tracking seismic activity to confirm and modify those predictions.”
If the companies refuse to comply, which they probably will, the organizations intend to file a lawsuit under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, a long-time law protecting citizens from hazardous waste.
Right-wing, anti-environmental extremists will frame the actions of the two groups as anti-business or anti-Capitalism, but this is a measured and reasonable response. It simply asks local corporations here to do the right thing. It’s not too much to ask.
In the fracking process, salt water laced with toxic chemicals is injected by high pressure deep into the ground to create fissures in rock formations that release fossil fuels. The wastewater is then “stored” in underground rock formations after it’s again injected underground by high pressure. Scientific study after scientific study have concluded it is the wastewater “injection” or disposal well process that is causing the massive number of earthquakes here. Just a few years ago, Oklahoma experienced two or three unnoticeable earthquakes a year. Now, as I mentioned, the state is on track to experience 900 earthquakes above 3.0-magnitude this year. Only Alaska has more earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or higher now in the nation. We even lead California.
The oil and gas industry, with its obvious vested interests, and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, made up of three elected members who have accepted campaign contributions from the energy sector, have been tremendously slow to act. While the commission has now gotten around to ordering volume caps on some disposal wells, it hasn’t issued a widespread moratorium. Both Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who have also received campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, haven’t done enough either to protect Oklahomans. Our leadership here is failing us to protect the business interests of oil and gas companies.
No one can deny the oil and gas industry is important to the Oklahoma economy or that fossil fuels will remain a significant part of the nation’s overall energy consumption for years to come, but we’re reaching the end of The Oil Age, which is going to be a short blip in world history. As the world moves forward in the development of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, it’s important to note that this movement has just as much profit-making and job-producing potential as fossil fuel extraction and use. In the end, people DO matter more than profits, but try to sell that to the right-wing extremists here.