Does Oklahoma lead the world now in the number of earthquakes it experiences on an almost daily basis? It appears so, according to a headline in one article.
An article under the headline “It’s Official: Oklahoma Experiences More Earthquakes Than Anywhere Else in the World” appeared on EcoWatch last week. The article points out to the world that Oklahoma’s hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, boom has shaken things up here in not-so-positive ways. A recent spate of earthquakes in the 4.0-magnitude range in central Oklahoma over the last two weeks or so has completely undercut the latest argument that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and Gov. Mary Fallin are actually doing something to address the problem. There are so many earthquakes now that it’s almost impossible to keep count in one’s mind or at least to report on an accurate basis as they increase in numbers and/or intensity. The Corporation Commission has issued so many wastewater volume reduction orders for specific injection wells that it’s almost impossible to keep track of them as well.
What we know for sure is that the earthquakes keep coming. Oklahoma is on track to experience more than 900 earthquakes, maybe more, at the 3.0-magnitude range or above this year. Just a few years ago, the state experienced a couple of small quakes annually. I think back to the oil boom and bust in the late 1970s and early 1980s here in Oklahoma. I lived through that. I remember bank failures, a terrible economy and a loss of jobs. I don’t remember any earthquakes.
I live and work in central Oklahoma, and I feel the earthquakes in the morning and night at my home, and while I’m sitting at my desk at work, or when I’m teaching in a college classroom. They are so frequent that my family, friends, colleagues and students don’t even sometimes acknowledge the smaller ones or we just say “did you feel that one” and move on to whatever we were doing. But what is the long-term cost of all the shaking on our homes and property here? What are the chances of a large 6.0-magnitude or above earthquake striking here and killing people and destroying buildings and infrastructure? The answers, respectively, to each question: “A lot of money to repair damage” and “a great probability.”
Here’s a link to the article:
— Greenpeace USA (@greenpeaceusa) November 17, 2015
In the fracking process, saltwater laced with toxic chemicals is injected by high pressure underground into rock formations. This creates fissures that release oil and natural gas. The leftover wastewater is then injected again underground into what are called injection wells or wastewater disposal wells. Scientists have concluded in many different studies that the injection well process is triggering earthquakes along fault lines in Oklahoma. Many environmentalists claim fracking also contaminates water supplies in certain areas of the country. I strongly believe this to be true.
So we shake and shake, and the oil and gas industry, with its powerful political lobby here, gets its way. We must ensure billionaires, such as Harold Hamm, the founder of Continental Resources, “America’s Oil Champion,” make their billions, right? That’s the reason for Oklahoma’s official existence, right? The industry, as always, miscalculated or ignored the basic concept of supply and demand under what we call Capitalism or, more precisely, corporate welfare or neo-liberalism so we now even have a fossil fuel glut in the world, which has driven down oil prices and pretty much devastated the state budget because of declining tax revenues. It’s also slowly but surely tanking the economy here. Fallin, all the Corporation Commission members and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, charged with protecting us from predatory companies, have all accepted large campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. They are absolutely working in the interests of oil and gas companies, not in the interests of the common good when it comes to our earthquake crisis here.
I don’t mean to increase the anxiety level here, but we’re still in the month of November, the month in which the state experiences its strongest earthquakes. Check it out:
Fact: The top 4 strongest earthquakes in Oklahoma have all occurred in November pic.twitter.com/mGkQMrTGyM
— Damon Lane (@KOCOdamonlane) November 19, 2015
The answer, of course, to this issue is to increase our efforts in developing renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power. These sources have a minimal impact on the environment compared to hydraulic fracturing and carbon emissions, which increase the greenhouse effect and is leading to catastrophic global warming.
Angela Spotts, a co-founder of Stop Fracking Oklahoma, has this to say in the recent EcoWatch article:
It really appears to me we are protecting the [oil and gas] industry in this state. Their jobs are important. But my home and all the people I speak for that don’t have the courage to stand up and speak out, our lives, homes, property and well-being is every bit as important as the jobs in the oil and gas industry. And I sincerely don’t believe the actions have been quick enough and fast enough and protecting from one of the big ones from happening.
I agree with Spotts. The oil and gas industry is important to Oklahoma, of course, but we need to stop fracking here or, at the very least, ban the use of disposal wells in the process. We live literally in a state of anxiety here because of all the earthquakes and the politicians who won’t do anything substantial about it.
We talk about property damage and the lousy high-cost earthquake insurance available to us, but there’s also a major psychological component to this issue. The earth starts to shake. Run outside or get under a table. Will the aftershocks be strong? Is my home safe? Is my family safe? We live with this new-normal here in central Oklahoma about every single day, and our leaders have failed us. Speak up. Bang the pots and pans in the streets. Take it to the public square. These earthquakes need to stop. Now.