The 4.2 and 3.6-magnitude earthquakes that shook up central Oklahoma Monday night and Tuesday morning are extremely clear reminders our seismic emergency continues unabated despite action by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
— Tulsa's Channel 8 (@KTULNews) March 29, 2016
The second earthquake was later determined to be a 3.6.
Fittingly, the earthquakes followed on the heels of the release of a new map created by the U.S. Geological Survey, which displays manmade earthquakes caused by fracking processes for the first time while revealing Oklahoma as one of the most seismically active places in the country.
Here’s that map:
— Smithsonian Magazine (@SmithsonianMag) March 29, 2016
Taken all together, what this means is that Oklahoma has more than just a huge budget crisis as it faces a $1.3 billion budget shortfall next year. It also has a huge earthquake crisis.
The OCC has ordered extensive reductions in volume amounts in injection wells used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which lead to the state’s numerous earthquakes, according to scientific evidence, but the strength and duration of the two recent quakes, which I felt Monday and Tuesday, indicated it might not be enough or it might not even be working at all.
In the fracking process, saltwater laced with toxic chemicals is injected by high pressure to create fissures in rock formations that release natural gas and oil. The wastewater is then injected back into rock formations. This process creates injection or disposal wells. Scientists agree it’s the injection well process that is creating the earthquakes.
Oil and natural gas industry leaders are quick to make the fine point that it’s the injection well process that is creating the earthquakes, not the fracking itself, but the problem is that it’s not financially feasible to store the wastewater or recycle it somehow. One doesn’t exist without the other, and thus oil and gas industry leaders are simply obfuscating with this point.
So many leading Oklahoma politicians are beholden to the oil and gas industry because of campaign contributions from its powerful lobby that it’s difficult to see any real action taking place unless there’s a federal court order or a devastating earthquake spurs action. Those politicians include Gov. Mary Fallin, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, and all three members of the OCC, Bob Anthony, Dana Murphy and Todd Hiett, according to an older news report. That list doesn’t even include U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who, according to Opensecrets.org, has received nearly $475,000 in oil and gas money just in the last five years or so.
Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry is trying to end tax credits and incentives here for companies producing electricity through wind power. Its leaders are doing this at the same time the oil and gas industry enjoys massive tax breaks from the state. They want to force utility companies to use more natural gas to produce electricity, which overall is more harmful to the environment in a myriad of ways than wind turbines.
These oil and gas industry leaders have it exactly wrong and backwards in a larger environmental and pragmatic sense, but then they apparently have a problem understanding or are perhaps willfully ignoring the basic concept of supply and demand, which has produced the fossil fuel glut at least partially responsible for the state’s budget problems.