Oklahoma isn’t the only state now dealing with earthquake swarms possibly caused by wastewater injection wells used in the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process.
A recent article in The Kansas City Star outlined how Kansas has experienced a surge in earthquakes, including a 3.8-magnitude quake that struck near the Oklahoma border on Dec. 16. Kansas, according to the report, “is one of five states least likely to experience earthquake damage.” A recent surge in oil and gas drilling might have changed all that.
According to the article, written by Mike Hendricks, “ . . . the December temblor and the smaller ones leading up to it startled flatlanders unaccustomed to the kind of tremors Californians might shrug off.”
Oklahoma, of course, has become earthquake central in the last two or three years or so. Hundreds upon hundreds of earthquakes, most of them small, have struck the state since an increase in fracking. Two earthquakes hit Oklahoma on Friday and Saturday with no reported damage.
In the fracking process, wastewater is eventually placed underground by high pressure into injection wells. Scientists believe this destabilizes rock layers, causing shifting, which can lead to earthquakes. One study concluded that the 5.7-magnitude quake near Prague in 2011 was likely connected to oil and gas activity.
According to the Earth Institute at Columbia University:
Felt as far away as Milwaukee, more than 800 miles away, the quake—the biggest ever recorded in Oklahoma--destroyed 14 homes, buckled a federal highway and left two people injured. Small earthquakes continue to be recorded in the area.
Is this the cost of supposed American energy independence?
The official state response to the surge in earthquakes can only be described as minimal. The Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner has urged state residents to get earthquake insurance for their homes, but no state leader seems ready to champion stricter regulations about wastewater injection wells or to eliminate them altogether.
On the national level, two U.S. Representatives have called for a hearing on the unusual spike in seismic activity in Oklahoma and other states and its relationship to oil and gas activity. No one in the Oklahoma Congressional delegation has publicly supported them.
Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry is important to the state’s economy, of course, and many of its politicians, such as U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and House Speaker T.W. Shannon, receive significant campaign donations from the energy lobby. This makes it difficult to even have a public discussion about the issue.
The state’s largest newspaper, The Oklahoman, a mouthpiece for energy corporations and right-wing politicians, has argued on its editorial page “that in the absence of compelling evidence that a natural phenomenon was caused by human activity, we should assume it was caused by nature.” In other words, it’s all just nature doing its thing.
The bottom line seems to be that it will take a major earthquake in Oklahoma that causes significant damage or a seismic shift here in the political landscape to get stricter regulations.
A better approach, of course, would be to focus on creating renewable energy sources.
State Rep. Sally Kern, the infamous, nationally-known legislator who claims homosexuality is more dangerous than terrorism, has introduced a bill that would allow students to brandish “a pastry or other food which is partially consumed in such a way that the remnant resembles a weapon.”
No, the above paragraph is not from The Onion. The quoted language is actually in the bill.
The bill, if passed and signed into law, would also allow students to bring toy guns to school, simulate gunplay with their fingers, imitate gun sounds and wear clothing supporting gun rights. It would also allow students to draw or possess images of guns and other weapons or use “a pencil, pen or other writing utensil to simulate a weapon.”
Bang bang, shoot em up, kids. You’re so incredibly adorable when you fake like you’re killing someone. The Lost Ogle has an lively take on the issue.
House Bill 2351, introduced for the upcoming legislative session, has drawn a lot of media attention, of course, because it's just so weird and unneeded and shows just how senseless and useless some elements of the Republican-led legislature have become.
The bill could also have unintended consequences by blurring the lines between hostile, potentially violent students and Kern’s fanatical support for guns, which is shared by many of her Republican colleagues. What if an 18-year-old high school student, for example, forms their hand into a gun and points it menacingly at a teacher? Should that not have a consequence?
Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican, pictured right, has dubbed her bill the Common Sense Zero Tolerance Act, saying it was prompted by a case in Maryland in which a 7-year-old student was suspended from school for two days for chewing a Pop Tart into a gun shape. In response to the suspension, the National Rifle Association awarded the boy a lifetime membership and the gun fanatics in that state made a big deal about it.
Was the suspension a mistake? Who knows? I do know that it really isn’t a local issue and that a plethora of school shootings in recent years have made teachers and administrators justifiably paranoid in adopting no-tolerance rules about guns and their facsimiles.
Kern’s bill is a huge overreach and presupposes a problem that doesn’t exist here. It also, in theory, promotes child “gun play” at schools by codifying such activities into law. Why not also introduce a bill that allows students to play kickball during a recess or draw dinosaurs or play math games in classrooms?
This is a bill that needs to be withdrawn or die in the committee process. If it makes it to a full House vote, however, it will probably pass. I’m unsure how the state Senate or Gov. Mary Fallin might respond to it.
Republican leaders, including Fallin, should put pressure on Kern and other fanatical elements of the legislature to put a lid on their ideological nonsense for this upcoming session. The state faces numerous problems, including catastrophic underfunding for education. Making sure school kids can kill people—all in jest and great fun, of course—is as ridiculous as it gets.
Where’s all the outrage now from The Oklahoman over lack of transparency and secrecy among some members of the Oklahoma City Council, including Mayor Mick Cornett?
As you recall, the newspaper and its editorial page recently made a big deal about unsealing the divorce records of Ward 2 Councilor and mayoral candidate Ed Shadid, pictured right, arguing that he was supposedly trying to “fight” to keep his past secret. Those records have now been released.
Meanwhile, several Oklahoma City Councilors, including Cornett, voted recently to not ask for the release of a 2009 report about a new downtown convention center. The report was conducted for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce right before voters approved MAPS 3.
In other words, here are elected officials trying to keep information secret from the public. Given its sanctimonious stance over Shadid’s records, one might think The Oklahoman would be demanding transparency in this case as well. But I can’t find anything remotely critical about it on its editorial page in recent days. Cornett, of course, is running for reelection.
It seems obviously clear that the newspaper under the guise of journalistic standards and support for freedom of information was merely interested in doing a political attack job on Shadid even as it tacitly condones secrecy in city government. Cornett represents the interests of the corporate power structure in this area just like the The Oklahoman, which is owned by Colorado billionaire and ultra-conservative Philip Anschutz. The newspaper, of course, has had a double standard for decades when it comes to politicians, but this case is so obvious it becomes incredulous.
Cornett, Ward 1 Councilor James Greiner, Ward 3 Councilor Larry McAtee, Ward 5 Councilor David Greenwell, Ward 6 Councilor Meg Salyer and Ward 8 Councilor Pat Ryan all voted not to ask the chamber to release the report. Shadid, Ward 4 Councilor Pete White and Ward 7 Councilor John Pettis voted to ask for the release.
The issue of the convention center, approved by voters as part of MAPS 3, has become controversial mainly because of this type of secrecy. Voters approved the $252 million center, but some city leaders are contending it will need a connecting hotel that could require additional public subsidies of perhaps $200 million or even more. The hotel was NOT part of MAPS 3. Were the voters deceived?
Shadid, in the past, has warned that studies have shown and some experts have argued that there is declining use of convention center and hotel facilities in some cities. Shadid is now leading a citizens group pushing initiative petition drives to take the convention center out of MAPS 3 and thus end tax collections earlier.
Shadid has also said the 2009 report contains information that is relevant to how the city should proceed with the convention center. Why do Cornett and other council members want to keep it secret?
All the main arguments over the convention center and potential hotel in downtown Oklahoma City have their supporters and strong champions, but one thing is sure: There needs to be transparency.
(Here’s an interesting historical look at the issue.)
What’s more important? A contentious divorce filed 10 years ago or perhaps half a billion dollars in taxpayers’ money getting spent right now? The Oklahoman should push for the report’s release in the same strong manner it pushed for the release of Shadid’s divorce records. The fact it apparently isn’t doing so shows once again it can’t be trusted to report the news fairly.