Earthquakes Continue To Rattle Oklahoma

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One of the strongest earthquakes in Oklahoma so far in 2014 struck north of Crescent Sunday, just one of several earthquakes that rattled the area.

There were no immediate reports of major property damage and injuries, but the temblors are a stark reminder that the state is experiencing a dramatic rise in seismic activity, which has been tied to the hydraulic fracturing or fracking drilling process.

A 4.4-magnitude earthquake hit north of Crescent at 9:10 a.m. Sunday and was just one of twelve earthquakes in the area that started after midnight, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported. A 4.3-magnitude earthquake struck in the same area at 1:51 a.m., according to the USGS. Crescent is about 43 miles north of Oklahoma City.

The earthquakes raise two important questions. Is it only a matter of time before a major earthquake strikes and causes significant damage and injuries in Oklahoma? Why aren’t state leaders doing more to address the issue?

Researchers have concluded that a 5.7-magnitude earthquake that struck near Prague in 2011, damaging several buildings, was likely caused by wastewater injection wells used in the fracking process. Wastewater generated by fracking is injected by high pressure in underground wells, which researchers have concluded can lead to seismic activity along fault lines.

The Oklahoma Geological Survey notes that “about 99% of the earthquakes that have occurred in Oklahoma over the past few years also lie within 9 miles” of a wastewater injection well.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission recently approved new rules requiring injection well operators to collect and retain more data related to their operations, but the rules must also be approved by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. The oil and gas lobby is one of the most powerful political forces in the state. The lobby has not opposed the new rules, but it would surely oppose a much-needed moratorium on injection wells or more intense regulations governing their operations.

Given the dramatic surge in earthquakes here and for the basic safety and welfare of state residents, the wisest action would be to stop all injection well operations until scientists can further study the issue.

What has become increasingly clear in recent years is that fracking and its related processes are environmentally damaging to our planet and threaten people’s health, safety and property. All this points to the continued need in this country to develop renewable and clean energy sources.