A new study linking all the historically recorded, major earthquakes in Oklahoma to oil and gas drilling activity should make everyone skeptical of anything the energy industry here has to say on the issue.
It’s truly a bipartisan political issue here in the reddest of red states. The state is projected to experience more than 900 earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or higher this year due to injection wells used in the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process. Homes, other property and personal safety are on the line. Now we know this has been going on since the drilling started. So when will the shaking stop?
A new scientific study, published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, makes the point that since the 1920s, at least, any earthquake here of 3.5-magnitude or above, including some large damaging earthquakes in the 1950s, was likely triggered by oil and gas drilling activities. Here’s an excellent article by Joe Wertz on the study.
The point is that in recent history there have been no so-called “natural” earthquakes here. It’s all been manmade “induced seismicity.”
Oklahoma is experiencing an oil and gas drilling boom that now has contributed to a worldwide glut of fossil fuels. The boom has been based on the fracking process, which critics rightly claim is environmentally hazardous.
In the fracking process, saltwater laced with toxic chemicals is injected underground by high pressure to creature fissures in rock formations that releases fossil fuels captured in tanks. The wastewater is then injected by high pressure underground again into what are called disposal or injection wells. Scientists agree that it’s the disposal well process that is triggering earthquakes along previously dormant fault lines.
A 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck near Prague in 2011, and since then the state, especially in central Oklahoma, has been shaken repeatedly by earthquakes as the fracking boom continues.
What makes this new study significant is that it gives us a historical perspective on the crisis we now face here, and it finally and utterly renders obsolete claims by the oil and gas industry that the earthquake swarm here is a natural occurrence.
The oil and gas industry has been obviously tied in a major way to Oklahoma’s economy since statehood. But the takeaway from this new study should be that it suggests it’s long past time to move away from dirty energy and to develop more renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.