Shake It Up To Stop The Shaking

Image of Oklahoma State Capitol

(I only have time for a short post today. Once again I raise the issue of our earthquake emergency following the 4.0-magnitude quake around Cushing in Payne County last night. It’s long past time for all Oklahomans to pay serious attention to this issue.—Kurt Hochenauer)

Here come those fracking-induced earthquakes day after day, and the worst is probably yet to come, according to some experts.

I sense there’s a very real but silent majority of Oklahomans who are extremely concerned about their personal safety and property because of all the shaking. But will it take a major earthquake disaster to motivate people to take action?

Two earthquakes—one registering at a 4.0-magnitude—rattled Payne County Thursday night and apparently led to power outages, according to news reports. This is the new reality for Oklahoma, an almost everyday occurrence, and our state leaders, such as Gov. Mary Fallin, Attorney General Scott Pruitt and the members of the Corporation Commission are not doing enough to address the problem.

Let’s face it: Oklahoma has always been a somewhat scary place to live because of deadly tornadoes, but now it’s become even more terrifying with all the earthquakes. Scientists are predicting it’s only a matter of time before a major quake hits. Are you ready? Will we even be able to live in this place soon?

So, once again, here’s what is happening for anyone still not paying attention:

Oklahoma is in the midst of a hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, boom. In the fracking process, water laced with toxic chemicals is injected into underground rock formations to create fissures that release fossil fuels, such as natural gas. The leftover toxic wastewater is then injected underground into what are called disposal wells or injection wells. Scientists and geologists throughout the world agree that the injection well process triggers earthquakes along fault lines. Oklahoma now leads the contiguous United States in the number of earthquakes registering 3.0-magnitude or higher. The state will probably experience a staggering 900 or more such earthquakes this year. That’s not to mention the literally thousands of other small earthquakes caused by the fracking process that we don’t necessarily feel on a daily basis.

It’s a real emergency. Our state leaders, as I mentioned, are not doing much of anything to stop it. That’s most likely because of the powerful oil and gas political lobby here. I think, as Oklahomans, we all GET the importance of the oil and gas industry here, but that doesn’t mean it should be allowed to damage our homes and property or place us at major risk for bodily harm.

Oil and gas companies should and eventually will be held liable for the damage they are inflicting on our state.

People need to get involved with this issue before it’s too late. There’s no way to be overly hyperbolic about this issue. Here’s a good place to start if you want to stop shaking.

Will Fracking Make Central Oklahoma Unsustainable?

Image of wind turbines that don’t cause earthquakes

I missed earlier news reports about a geologist who has concluded the Stillwater area and much of central Oklahoma may well become a dangerous “epicenter” of earthquake activity because of the injection well process used in the hydraulic fracturing process.

Chris Hartnady, who is a South African geologist, gave a presentation in Stillwater last March, which raised the possibility that an area around Stillwater, Guthrie and Langston could experience 5.0-magnitude earthquakes or higher on a weekly basis starting soon.

Writing in Oklahoma State University’s newspaper the O’Colly, Will Tracy points out this about Hartnady’s study:

The area of risk is positioned near Guthrie, Langston and Stillwater, according to the study. The distribution of recent epicenters reveals possible hidden faults, which may be oriented for re-activation, and earthquakes greater than magnitude 5 could shake the region on a weekly basis by the end of 2015, according to the study.

Note the term “weekly basis.” This is a disturbing and frightening possibility.

Certainly, Hartnady’s projections make sense for everyone currently living in central Oklahoma, which gets rattled almost daily by earthquakes. The area that would be affected by regular or weekly 5.0-magnitude earthquakes would also include Edmond and Oklahoma City.

The bottom line is that such regular seismic activity at that level could well make central Oklahoma an unsustainable place to live and work. Hartnady concedes his study is speculative, according to reports, but he wants people to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

What if we simply can’t live in central Oklahoma anymore because of fracking? What will happen to our homes and other property? Where will we work? Where will we go?

Given the alarming statistics, these are not unreasonable questions. Oklahoma has gone from experiencing one or two small earthquakes per year to more than 2,000 so far this year. There have been two earthquakes of greater than 4.0-magnitude in Stillwater this last week alone. We now lead the contiguous United States in the number of 3.0-magnitude earthquakes or higher. We’re on target to have more than 900 earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or higher this year. It’s not unusual to have 4.0-magnitude or higher earthquakes here. In 2011, a 5.7-magnitude struck near Prague.

Scientists agree that the injection well process used in the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process is the reason for the dramatic surge in seismic activity.

In the fracking process, water laced with toxic chemicals is injected underground to create fissures in rock formations that release fossil fuels, such as natural gas. The wastewater is then injected by high pressure into underground rock formations in what are called injection wells or disposal wells. Scientists agree that it’s this element of fracking that is triggering seismic activity among fault lines.

The fracking boom may well have given America energy independence, but it has also put many of us in danger. Oklahoma leaders have been slow to act and probably won’t ever do anything substantial because of the political influence of the oil and gas industry. Industry officials initially denied the earthquakes were linked to injection wells and are now obfuscating over the issue.

Pretty much, Oklahomans are on their own without help from their elected officials in the disaster that looms.

What’s even more frightening is that shutting down injection wells might not even solve the problem, as one geologist has noted. Two injection wells near Cushing were shut down recently after earthquakes, but will that fix the problem?

Davis Continues to Speak Up For Reproductive Rights

Image of Wendy Davis and Kurt Hochenauer

Former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis was in Oklahoma Saturday speaking up for Planned Parenthood.

That’s a good thing because in a crass, anti-women political move Friday, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to defund the health organization for a year.

It’s GOP political theater and part of a risky political strategy as the presidential election looms in 2016. The disingenuous and stated idea behind the one-year suspension of funding is that it will give conservative politicos time to “investigate” Planned Parenthood. House Republicans also passed an absurd, meaningless bill that would make it a criminal act if medical workers don’t try to save the life of a child born during an attempted abortion. This is a bill also based completely on absurdities and misinformation.

Both bills pander to low-information conservative voters and further fuel myopic ideologues, the cultural scourges and haters, who have devoted their lives to dangerous and threatening levels of religious extremism.

Women have a right to control their bodies. Women have a right to ALL reproductive health procedures, tests and checkups. Women have a right to go to a Planned Parenthood.

Oklahoma U.S. Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe have helped to lead the ongoing attack on Planned Parenthood in the Senate even though the organization doesn’t perform abortions in the state. The entire attack on the organization is based on heavily edited and fraudulent videos manufactured by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. The videos are clearly fabrications about how fetal tissue is obtained and used in stem cell research. This coordinated attack on Planned Parenthood is a political ploy by conservatives, a doubling down on taking away a woman's right to have an abortion in order to score political points.

But it’s goes much further than that, and the GOP might even try to shut down the government over the issue, an issue which is much larger than one organization.

The defunding measure, of course, will not make it through the U.S. Senate. If it does, President Barack Obama will veto it, and Republicans don’t have enough votes to override it. The companion bill won’t make it through the Senate either, and even if it did and even if it was signed into law by Obama, it wouldn’t matter. Like the fabricated videos, it’s based on a lie, which the corporate media doesn’t stress enough. The idea of a kicking and crying healthy baby “born” as if in a regular childbirth during an abortion might make everyone cringe, but it doesn’t happen. Unscrupulous Republicans just want everyone to think it does.

The ongoing attack against Planned Parenthood, which receives $450 million in federal money primarily in the form of Medicaid payments for providing services to low-income women, is more than a typical anti-abortion stunt as I mentioned. It’s about opportunistic white men, for the most part, a worn out, aging patriarchy, trying to deny women equal rights, equal health care and equal pay. It’s a ploy to infantilize women, to put them in their place, to control, denigrate and abuse.

Think for a minute about the relationship between women’s basic reproductive health and their economic stability and opportunity. These two things are inextricably intertwined.

Here’s how Florida U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat, described the bill to defund Planned Parenthood:

This bill is dumb, it’s foolish, and it’s mean-spirited. The bill is based upon lies and exaggerations. If you want to have a truthful debate, then let’s talk about the 400,000 Pap smears, the 500,000 breast exams, the 4.5 million STD and HIV tests that Planned Parenthood does each year.

All this makes it increasingly important that Davis, a former Texas Democratic state senator and gubernatorial candidate, continues to speak up for women’s rights and support organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Davis, who is widely know for filibustering a draconian Texas legislative anti-abortion bill in 2013, was the featured speaker Saturday night at an annual fundraising dinner for Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma. I was fortunate to hear the speech and to talk personally with Davis, pictured with me above, at the event.

In her speech, Davis spoke up against the “demigods” like presidential candidate Donald Trump who demean women and lamented “sadly” the division of women on issues like reproductive health. She brought up the struggles of single women and mothers, who clearly need organizations such as Planned Parenthood for basic health reasons.

These women used by demigods for political gain are not the fictions created by conservatives. To drive home her point, Davis repeatedly used the refrain, as she described various women, “She’s real. I met her.” It was perhaps the most powerful part of her speech because the reality of what Planned Parenthood does is always lost in the political and media spectacle.

Davis talked about the struggles her grandmother and mother faced in their lives, and talked about her own journey. Davis graduated with a law degree from Harvard University, and held political office as a Fort Worth councilor and Texas state senator, but she faced her own financial and personal obstacles as a single mother along the way. In 2014, she lost her bid to become Texas governor, and now practices law in Austin and Fort Worth.

Her filibuster in 2013 of a bill that placed draconian restrictions on abortion in Texas drew worldwide media attention. She was able to stop Senate Bill 5 temporarily, but the restrictions were later passed and signed into law. What made her filibuster important, however, was Davis’ courage in standing up for women’s reproductive rights in an extremely conservative state where she was sure to face ridicule and personal attacks, which she did. This, in turn, empowered other women and men to speak up, and the momentum continues.

In her speech, she urged women to tap into their collective power, and said the “ballot box” is where change happens. She said the Goddess of Liberty statue on top of the Texas Capitol building dome continues to stand for “freedom and justice” for women in our neighboring state to the south.

Republicans have demonized Planned Parenthood as a political ploy, banking on visceral responses from voters not paying attention to outright lies and doctored videos. It’s a desperate and immoral strategy to win the presidency and to implement laws restricting the rights of women even further.

Wendy Davis gives us courage to stand up against this onslaught against women. She’s real. I met her. Maybe she will run for office again. Let’s hope so.

Syndicate content