A recent Associated Press report about the fracking-induced earthquakes rattling Oklahoma on a daily basis and making the state the most seismically active place on the planet contained this gem of a paragraph that deserves some parsing and creative interpretation:
“A lot of people say we just need the earth to stop shaking, and I understand that, but the fact of the matter is that without the ability to dispose of wastewater, we cannot produce oil and gas in the state of Oklahoma, and this is our lifeblood,” said Kim Hatfield, president of Oklahoma City-based Crawley Petroleum and a member of Gov. Mary Fallin’s task force studying the earthquake problem.
Hatfield brings it all together in what for him might is probably an unintentional way. As I’ve been arguing for years now, there’s no compelling distinction between the fracking process and the related injection wells that dispose of its toxic wastewater. One is dependent on the other just as Hatfield points out. It’s ALL fracking. The other point Hatfield makes that is important is his reference to “lifeblood.” He means it in a profit sense for oil and gas companies, of course, but it can also be applied to the personal safety risks faced right now by all Oklahomans living or working in a major earthquake zone, which includes Edmond now.
More quakes rattle Oklahoma but state avoids tough measures: https://t.co/aiej9uPX7a
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 18, 2016
The summary: Fracking causes numerous earthquakes in Oklahoma. It’s terribly frightening for many people who care about their lifeblood in a literal sense of the word of living or dying. Hatfield doesn’t mean it quite that way, but he makes it way too easy to extend the interpretation of his comments.
The article, which adds even more to our understanding of the issue, quotes scientists about the issue. As Cornell University geophysicist Katie Keranen points out in the article, “You have the ingredients you need to have a larger earthquake.” The article also shows how Kansas authorities responded with more intensity to the same problem. We also know that Arkansas authorities also responded forcefully to earthquakes caused by the fracking process and ended them there. Why can’t Oklahoma do it, too?
Meanwhile, the quakes continue to roll in central and north central Oklahoma in the Edmond, Stillwater, Fairview and Medford areas. Those of us who live or work in these areas feel the earth move virtually every day. That doesn’t even include the smaller quakes below the 2.5-magnitude range or so that we don’t feel or only a few of us near the epicenters feel.
Two public hearings last week on the issue drew hundreds of angry and frightened people, which I wrote about here. Yet no real consensus has emerged among state leaders, and the class action lawsuits are starting to grow.
Since the hearings, the ultra-conservative The Oklahoman has weighed in with an editorial defending the lifeblood of the oil and gas industry. I should note the newspaper is owned by Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, who made his money in the drilling business. The editorial is an insipid, disingenuous rant that obviously supports his ideology. That is a conflict of interest and should have been noted in the editorial.
Let’s go over what the oil and gas industry and its lifeblood has done for Oklahoma of late:
(1) It has produced earthquakes using the fracking process that have damaged and continue to damage homes.
(2) Through its incompetent business forecasting, it has contributed to a worldwide fossil fuel glut that is devastating the Oklahoma economy and the state budget because of a decline in gross production taxes. Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy has just announced pending layoffs and the state faces an approximate $1 billion or more budget shortfall next fiscal year.
(3) It helped make 2015 the warmest year in recorded history by extracting the fossil fuels that produce the carbon emissions that accelerate the greenhouse effect, which leads to manmade global warming.
— Adam Wilmoth (@awilmoth) January 20, 2016
In the fracking process, water is injected underground by high pressure to create fissures in rock formations that release oil and natural gas. The wastewater is then injected underground into what are called wastewater injection or disposal wells. Scientists have concluded the injection well process is triggering earthquakes on previously dormant fault lines in Oklahoma.
Recently, a series of quakes in the 4.0- to 4.8-magnitude range have rocked us here, including in Edmond, a highly populated area, which has caused damage to homes, led to power outages and rattled nerves. The state’s largest recorded earthquake, a 5.6 temblor, struck near Prague in November, 2011, and the quakes have not stopped yet.
Some state leaders are claiming the legislature will act on the crisis quickly when it convenes Feb. 1, but the powerful oil and gas lobby will fight any major initiative, such as moratoriums on injection wells or, what I’d like to see, a general ban on fracking altogether here.
The way of the future is clear: Oklahoma needs to focus on developing renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, and finally wean itself from its dependence on the oil and gas industry. This place has gone bust too many times, but here we go again. Hold on literally and figuratively.