Could all the literal shaking actually shake things up politically here?
Environmentalist Erin Brockovich, pictured right, is scheduled to participate in an open forum about the state’s fracking-induced earthquakes and the state’s water supply at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Constitution Hall from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23. Here’s more information about the forum.
Brockovich is the well-known environmental activist who brought a successful lawsuit in the 1990s against Pacific Gas and Electric Company for contaminating drinking water. Her work on the case was later featured in the 2000 film Erin Brockovich, which starred Julia Roberts, and she has continued to fight for environmental issues around the country.
Undoubtedly, Brockovich will address the possible connections between hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the state’s groundwater supplies, but after the 5.1-magnitude earthquake near Fairview Saturday, many of those people who will attend the forum will also be greatly concerned about the state’s earthquake crisis.
— Tornado Quest (@TornadoQuest) February 14, 2016
Recent earthquake forums at UCO and the state Capitol have drawn hundreds of residents worried about their personal safety and damage to their property because of the numerous earthquakes shaking Oklahoma on a regular basis. State Rep. Richard Morrissette, an Oklahoma City Democrat, is hosting the forum on Feb. 23.
Morrissette has emerged as a forceful voice in the cause to stop the earthquakes here. The Oklahoman editorial board has accused him of “grandstanding” on the issue but when their houses are consistently shaking and getting damaged and the electricity goes out, people tend to want immediate action and forceful from their leaders.
Gov. Mary Fallin didn’t even discuss the earthquake crisis in her recent State of the State address. That’s the opposite of grandstanding. Ignoring the issue won’t make it go away either.
Fracking is a process in which water laced with toxic chemicals is injected by high pressure into underground rock formations. This creates fissures that release fossil fuels, such as oil and gas. The water is then injected underground into what are called injection or wastewater disposal wells. Scientists have concluded the injection well process is triggering earthquakes along previous dormant fault lines in the state.
The three members of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission OCC, Bob Anthony, Dana Murphy and Todd Hiett, have mainly ordered reduced volume amounts for some injection wells, but, as is perfectly obvious to people in central and north-central Oklahoma, the quakes keep coming pretty much on a daily basis. Scientists have warned of even stronger earthquakes in the 6.0-magnitude or higher range. That could be devastating in a place not built to withstand constant seismic activity.
Here’s part of a January 13 response by the OCC to recent seismic activity around Fairview:
”Under the plan, 27 Arbuckle disposal wells in an area measuring approximately 36 miles by 20 miles will reduce disposal volume. The total disposal volume reduction for the area in question is 54,859 barrels a day, or about 18 percent.”
That was before the 5.1-magnitude quake on Saturday. My point is that reducing disposal amounts doesn’t seem to be working. In fact, there’s even a possibility that the injection wells have unleashed so much seismic activity now that the earthquakes can’t be stopped no matter what is done.
All of this is unprecedented, and it deserves an urgent response. At least Morrissette is doing something by allowing residents a chance to be heard and tell their stories. Some Edmond residents have also filed a lawsuit against energy-related companies over the earthquakes.
We can all agree that the oil and gas industry is vitally important to the Oklahoma economy, which is slumping right now. But the safety of the state’s residents and the basic protection of their property should outweigh the profit motives of energy companies, which claim that eliminating injection wells altogether could mean the end of fracking in Oklahoma at a profitable level at least for now.
Here are two obvious ideas: Shut down injection wells and diversify the Oklahoma economy, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon, especially diversification, and it would definitely be a long, painful process in an economic sense. Again, reducing volume amounts in injection wells doesn’t seem to be working. A mediated, halfway response to the issue has seemingly failed. The quakes keep coming. They are growing in number and intensity.
On a personal note, I’ve written about our earthquake crisis many times over the last few years, and I’ve actually felt quakes as I’ve been writing about them. It’s firsthand experience with an urgent issue that needs to be solved.
It will probably take a major earthquake to wake up the majority of our state leaders unless there’s a political power shift in the state, which takes me back to my initial sentence. Fallin may not want to talk about the earthquakes, but the voters can send a message this November by electing legislators who want to solve the crisis.
— Sierra Club (@sierraclub) February 7, 2016