I know for many people here this seems like a radical idea, but the only way to bring an end to all these earthquakes in Oklahoma is to ban oil and gas companies from using the fracking process to extract fossil fuels in our state.
Obviously, the negative economic impact of prohibiting hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” would be immense here, but it might finally kickstart the state government into truly diversifying the local economy while doing what it’s supposed to do, which is protecting the safety of citizens and their property.
The major 4.3- and 4.2-magnitude earthquakes that recently rocked Edmond just north of Oklahoma City have brought the issue to the forefront. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has tried to micromanage the problem, but we now know the fracking process has most likely reactivated a new fault line running from Edmond to downtown Oklahoma City. The lesson here is that Oklahoma, in a basic geological sense, is just not suited for fracking.
— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) January 5, 2016
The major quakes are just beginning for the state’s most populous area. Get ready. It’s going to be intense. But if the state bans fracking, the quakes will stop. It’s a choice for voters or leavers.
Executives of oil and gas companies will be quick to point out that it’s the wastewater injection wells used in the fracking process that scientists have determined cause the earthquakes, not the initial fracking extraction process itself, but that’s a fallacious argument. Fracking produces massive amounts of wastewater, and it must be disposed of and stored. Extraction and wastewater storage are not exclusive to one another in the current drilling methods used by the oil and gas industry. It’s all “fracking.”
Unless there are other cost-effective and environmentally sound ways to store the massive toxic waste of fracking besides using injection wells, then fracking isn’t a viable or financially-feasible option to extract fossil fuels in Oklahoma.
In the fracking process, saltwater laced with toxic chemicals is injected deep underground to creature fissures in rock formations that release fossil fuels. The wastewater is then injected deep underground again into what are called disposal or injection wells. Scientists have concluded the injection well process is triggering earthquakes along previously dormant fault lines in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which is a quasi-regulator of the oil and gas industry, has issued directives to limit volume amounts in certain injection wells, but it has no absolute legal authority over the industry. In fact, one local oil and gas company, Sandridge Energy, has already refused to comply with a directive. Expect more oil and gas companies to follow Sandridge’s lead on this issue.
It’s important to note that all three of the commission’s members, Bob Anthony, Dana Murphy and Todd Hiett, along with Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, have accepted campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. These five people could easily come together to stop the earthquakes, but they are declining to do so.
— KOKH FOX 25 (@OKCFOX) January 5, 2016
State Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-Oklahoma City), who plans to hold a public hearing Jan. 15 about the earthquakes, puts it this way:
The captain of the Titanic was warned about icebergs ahead and did nothing about it and look what happened. Let’s hope that our Governor, the Corporation Commission and the leaders in our State Capitol, state legislators don’t do what the captain of the Titanic did and ignore the warnings.
Overall, I agree with Morrissette’s analogy, but the solution is a foregone conclusion. What needs to happen is this: Fallin, with the support of Pruitt, the commission members and other Republican leaders and legislators, should declare an emergency and bring an immediate halt to all fracking operations in the state. Anything less than that is really just superfluous.
There’s no reason at this point to parse the fine points of injection well placements or their toxic wastewater volume amounts in Oklahoma. Some states and jurisdictions have already banned fracking. Oklahoma, in particular, is just not suited for fracking because of its basic underground geological formation.
The economic impact on a fracking ban would be immense through the loss of jobs and tax revenue here. I’m aware of that, and I would be affected by it just as much as anyone else. But this is an urgent issue of protecting the safety of Oklahoma citizens and their property. It’s non-partisan.
What’s more likely to happen, of course, is that the federal government will eventually have to intervene and this probably won’t happen until a major quake strikes, one that causes massive damage and casualties.
The larger answer is to accelerate the development of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, which could eventually have as much, if not more, of a positive financial impact on the Oklahoma economy as the oil and gas industry. Oklahoma has enough wind and sun to be a major player in renewable energy, but the powerful oil and gas industry here, by historical default, makes millions and billions of dollars from dirty energy, which also produces the carbon emissions putting our planet in peril. It’s time to change it up here.
— CGU (@CGU_UGC) December 23, 2015