On Aug. 16, The Oklahoman editorial board published an in-house commentary, which carried the headline, “Oklahoma on the right course in addressing earthquakes.”
— CNN (@CNN) September 3, 2016
On Saturday, Sept. 3, around 7 a.m., a terrifyingly long manmade 5.6-magnitude earthquake centered near Pawnee rattled this state and neighboring states even though oil and gas industry puppets like the great minds at The Oklahoman had declared the quake crisis all but solved. The earthquake caused one injury and widespread damage throughout the state.
Saturday’s morning earthquake should be considered yet another wake-up call to Oklahomans. If they don’t get it now, they’re never going to get it. The quake was the same size of a temblor that hit near Prague in 2011, but to me it felt longer and more powerful.
Oklahomans need to “get” that state officials, such as Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), the oil and gas industry and the corporate media here are not going to do what is obviously necessary to stop what’s causing the earthquakes.
Even the OCC’s decision to order the shut down of a broad swath of injection wells after the earthquake is not enough.
Despite its obvious dire economic consequences for this place, the state and the oil and gas industry needs to eventually shut down every injection well in the state. The corporate media, forever wrong on this issue, needs to step up and call for that action. No more injection wells in Oklahoma.
The latest public relations hype or narrative emanating from the oil and gas industry and promoted by The Oklahoman and other news outlets here and elsewhere until Saturday has been that the so-called “decline” in the number of earthquake this year shows us all is well and that we’re “on the right course” in stopping the damage to our property and general psychological welfare.
Oklahoma earthquake prompts order to shut down oil and gas disposal wells. pic.twitter.com/qY5VqwATDm
— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 4, 2016
In its editorial, The Oklahoman made a big deal out of the fact that the number of 3.0-magnitude or above earthquakes had dropped by about 100 or so from the same time last year. The pontification was the definition of hubris. “We would like to think new regulations regarding the disposal of wastewater have something to do with it,” The Oklahoman chortled.
Of course, 448 earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or above in 2016—the number has risen quite a bit since three or so weeks ago—is not the ideal situation either even if it does represent a decline, which just happens to correspond with an overall drop in fracking in the state’s oil patch. But pesky facts aren’t going to stop the top editors at The Oklahoman from liking what they want to think.
You know what I would like to think? I would like to think we’ve reached a breaking point, and local leaders can wake up to the obvious. Maybe Oklahoma, because of its basic geological make-up and its underground fault lines in the so-called Arbuckle formation, is simply not meant to be fracked and fracked and fracked until there’s not a drop of oil or resident left in this outback. I doubt, however, state leaders here will respond appropriately.
Now I must write the obligatory statement. The oil and gas industry wants us to honor the obligatory so it can confuse or bore people. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process in which water laced with toxins in injected underground to create fissures in rock formations. These fissures release fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas. The wastewater is then injected unground again into what are called disposal or injection wells. Scientists have confirmed the injection well process is causing the massive number of earthquakes here.
Now what the oil and gas industry wants everyone to do here is make a huge distinction between “fracking” and injection wells, but here’s my point: In practice, one does not exist without the other. Injection wells are a major part of fracking in Oklahoma. There are ideas about recycling wastewater on a large scale, but none are financially feasible at this point and maybe never, especially since the world may have already reached peak oil demand.
The fracking boom in Oklahoma has led to our earthquake emergency. It’s no longer our dirty little secret, folks. The 5.6-magnitude quake Saturday was felt as far away as St. Louis, Omaha, Kansas City and Austin. Maybe something can get done if people from outside the state start complaining about the shaking.
The terrifying earthquake was only matched by a terrifying non-statement from Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. James Lankford, who apparently visited some of the impacted area, though there was widespread damage throughout the state. Lankford apparently told a reporter or reporters, “When a disaster like this happens over a holiday weekend, there is a sense that everyone is disconnected, when that’s not true. We are still connected, and I want everyone to be able to see it here.”
Both Lankford and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, the state’s other senator, have spent far too much time fighting the Environmental Protection Agency on “behalf” of Oklahomans and far too little time actually educating themselves about our earthquake emergency and enlisting federal help to solve it. They are the ones who live disconnected in Washington, not people here.
It may seem odd for me to focus on Lankford and Inhofe, instead of state officials, such as Fallin or OCC members. But the truth is the state isn’t going to take the necessary action to stop the earthquakes because of the powerful oil and gas political lobby here.
What’s needed now is direct federal intervention to protect our lives and property here.