Let it be clear that Gov. Mary Fallin and The Oklahoman are complicit in the dreadfully slow and inadequate response to the state’s ongoing earthquake crisis created by the fracking process.
As I’ve written before, we are experiencing a crisis. To call it anything else is frankly dishonest. The state will probably experience more than 800 earthquakes this year of 3.0-magnitude or higher. That’s an incredible number for Oklahoma, and the science clearly points to disposal wastewater wells used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as the reason for all the shaking and rattling.
Here are two dates to consider: November 5, 2011 and August 7, 2015. The first date is when a 5.6-earthquake struck near Prague causing significant damage. The second date is today, as I post this, and no action of any major significance has been taken.
The Oklahoman on its editorial page argues the state has “solid” earthquake policies in place and is acting in a responsible manner. Fallin, who has finally acknowledged the link between the earthquakes and fossil fuel drilling here, points to a reduction in well volumes at some sites believed to be triggering the quakes.
But it’s simply laughable that the state has handled the issue in an adequate manner. The number and intensity of the quakes keep growing. This is a real crisis-and it’s a bipartisan issue-that demands more immediate action, which should include at least seriously considering a moratorium on disposal wastewater wells. Reducing volume amounts may or may not work in the long run. The scientists simply don’t know. What we do know is that the entire fracking process is incredibly damaging to the environment. Fallin needs to declare a state emergency and seek disaster help and relief from the federal government. This is an issue too large for a state such as Oklahoma to handle effectively.
Both The Oklahoman and Fallin have obviously been siding with the state’s oil and gas industry, which initially and blatantly argued the quakes were of a natural origin. That’s all changed now, but the oil and gas industry has a powerful political lobby in the state. It’s not going away anytime soon.
The Oklahoman is owned by Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, who made his money in the drilling business. The oil and gas industry, according to OpenSecrets.org, has been a top donor to Fallin’s political campaigns.
In the fracking process, water laced with highly toxic chemicals is injected into underground rock formations to create fissures that release fossil fuels. The wastewater is then injected by high pressure underground. Scientists believe it is the wastewater injection that is triggering earthquakes along fault lines here and elsewhere.
No one can deny that the oil and gas industry is important to the state’s economy, but what about damage to people’s homes and other property caused by the quakes. How many 3.0-magnitude and higher earthquakes can a house endure before there is serious foundational problems or other damage? What if the manmade earthquakes go on for years or decades near highly populated areas in central Oklahoma?