Did you feel that 4.3 magnitude earthquake Wednesday as you worried about the severe weather coming into the Oklahoma City area?
Welcome to our new reality here. You are forgiven momentarily for your state of disbelief and despair. I was actually looking out the window at the sky in my office window searching for storm clouds when things started shaking. I was left feeling that with just a bit more punch and a longer shaking my office building would have collapsed on top of me. Now, what about those tornadoes? It’s just unbelievable.
The surge in earthquakes here over the last few years, according to scientists, has been caused by the wastewater disposal process used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas. In that process, chemically-laced wastewater from the fracking process is injected by high pressure underground into rock formations. This causes instability in the state’s fault lines triggering earthquakes.
The 5.7 earthquake that struck near Prague and caused damage in 2011 was the largest temblor ever recorded here. But there have been hundreds more earthquakes since then, and Oklahoma now leads the contiguous United States in the number of earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or higher.
This surge in earthquakes here has been widely documented and reported. The New York Times, for example, published a piece last week about the state’s dilemma, and while it really didn’t offer any new information it did lend credibility to an argument presented by myself and others for years.
This is from that published story:
But in a state where oil and gas are economic pillars, elected leaders have been slow to address the problem. And while regulators have taken some protective measures, they lack the money, work force and legal authority to fully address the threats.
More than five years after the quakes began a sharp and steady increase, the strongest action by the Republican governor, Mary Fallin, has been to name a council to exchange information about the tremors. The group meets in secret, and has no mandate to issue recommendations.
The current Republican-dominated legislature is more concerned with protecting the interests of the oil and gas industry through tax breaks and other laws. Meanwhile, what is the impact of hundreds of earthquakes 3.0-magnitude or above? What about the foundations of our homes or the stability of older commercial buildings or the physical stability of our bridges? What about our personal safety if a major earthquake of 6.0 or above strikes in central Oklahoma? Some scientists predict a major quake is sure to strike here.
The oil and gas industry will never willingly take responsibility for any damage done by earthquakes here and the current legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin will do nothing to protect the property and safety of its citizens if it will do financial harm to energy companies.
I imagine watching Fallin on television strolling through the major earthquake damage done in a particular state neighborhood speaking of the “Oklahoma standard” and the resilience of the people here.
This may well be the issue that wakes people up here and leads to a political shift, especially if there’s a major earthquake that does significant damage. The local corporate media is also beginning to report more extensively on the issue, and the national media is now focusing its attention on it.
Here’s the major solution: Let’s put an end to fracking altogether and focus on developing renewable energy sources. This has the added benefit of reducing our carbon emissions and limiting the damage of global warming.
Here’s something the state of Oklahoma could do now: Shut down all wastewater disposal wells in the state.
Obscene profits! Obscene profits! That’s what I say.
The editorial board of The Oklahoman always finds a way to take a serious local issue and turn it into a snarky smack down of anyone that doesn’t agree with its distorted right-wing conception of the universe.
In an April 6 editorial titled “Falling prices continue to take a toll on energy industry in Oklahoma, U.S,” the newspaper pointed out the negative impact of layoffs in the state’s oil and gas industry on the economy because of falling prices. That’s pretty typical stuff.
But this is the way the editorial gets into the issue:
THAT sound you don’t hear right now is the din from oil industry critics kvetching about “obscene profits.”
Funny how this group goes down a rabbit hole when things aren’t rosy for oil and gas producers, when profits are scarce (or nonexistent) and when the industry starts shedding high-paying jobs.
What nonsense. No one has gone down a rabbit hole. Continental Resources Chief Executive Officer Harold Hamm is apparently still worth several billion dollars, and that’s obscene. Once prices rebound, he will be worth billions more. That’s obscene.
It’s obscene because of major income inequality throughout the world, and the terrible impact of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on the environment in Oklahoma and elsewhere. The earthquakes here are probably not going to stop until oil and gas executives, such as Hamm, don’t make billions upon billions of dollars. Did I mention how obscene that is?
What the editorial fails to focus upon is that it’s not the richest executives who are losing their jobs. It’s mostly the men and women doing the geological and physical work of actually extracting the oil and gas from the ground. No one wants these people to lose their jobs in a personal sense. The green movement, of which I’m a member, would like to see a decline in fossil fuel drilling and more renewable energy development, but oil and gas companies are driven by the fact they can make obscene profit when prices are high. Many do so, and then when prices fall, they cut workers. That’s a fact.
What would be NOT obscene is if the oil and gas industry had sensible policies that would limit the impact of the boom and bust cycle, which has defined The Oil Age in the planet’s history.
What would be especially NOT obscene is if the federal government would establish an overall sensible, long-term energy policy that still encouraged the development for now of fossil fuels but also encouraged the development of renewable energy sources.
Let’s face it: The burning of fossil fuels has done much damage to our planet, which faces a global warming crisis. On the local level, the fracking process has been blamed for the huge surge in earthquakes, which is undoubtedly taking its toll on our buildings and infrastructure.
Billionaires like Hamm make billions of dollars off the wreckage.
Gov. Mary Fallin has signed into law a nasty, petty little bill targeting the professional organizations of state teachers that tells the true story of how she feels about state educators.
The story is that she doesn’t want teachers to have a voice in education in this state, which faces a massive teacher shortage—1,000 and counting—and has cut education funding by approximately 24 percent since 2008, the most in the nation. Teachers here make some of the lowest salaries in the nation, but their so-called “unions” are so mighty and powerful they need to be punished, right?
Fallin couldn’t even attend the education rally last Monday at the state Capitol, but she did find time on Thursday to sign into law House Bill 1749. The bill prohibits state agencies from deducting membership dues from employees for professional organizations. The bill is directly targeted at what the bill’s supporters call Oklahoma teacher “unions,” particularly the Oklahoma Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.
The bill’s strongest supporters claim the state shouldn’t be helping the interests of unions that bargain for better pay and benefits.
Here are the fallacies of the argument: (1) There is no extra cost associated with deducting money from employees’ paychecks. Virtually all institutions and companies deduct various amounts of taxes, insurance costs, charity donations and other monies from paychecks. Once the deduction is established, it’s simply a matter of clicking a computer key to generate a paycheck. The point is that the dues deductions are not costing taxpayers any extra money for teachers’ paychecks. (2) If OEA and AFT are such powerful bargaining unions, then why do our public teachers’ salaries here consistently rank as the lowest 49th or 48th in the nation? The fact is that these two professional organizations don’t actually do much bargaining at all, except to call attention to how education funding overall in the state is perhaps the most inadequate in the nation taking into account all the circumstances and the state’s historical record.
It’s difficult not to see this pettiness by Fallin and the state’s lawmakers as the lingering effect of the crushing 2010 defeat of State Question 744, which would have required the state to fund education at the regional average. Democrat and former Gov. Brad Henry and even the Oklahoma Policy Institute, often cited as a left-leaning think tank by The Oklahoman editorial board, joined with the right-wing in Oklahoma, and the question was defeated with more than 80 percent of the vote.
Henry’s barrage of television “just-say-no” advertisements and OKPolicy’s relentless arguments against “average” funding for education were celebrated by the right-wing here and used as their main weapon in defeating the measure by such a lopsided margin. It’s important to remember here that the “just-say-no” language was made famous by the late right-winger and former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy in their campaign against drug abuse.
That lopsided vote margin on SQ 744 made it clear to the right-wing that they can basically do what they want to do when it comes education. It completely took away any agency or voice educators might have when it comes to establishing policy. Any serious attempt to really raise teacher salaries here will be met with the same cacophony of voices. The right-wing won’t even have to do anything. They can just allow Democrats like Henry and the think tank OKPolicy to do their dirty work.
In the end, this bill might not do much on the practical level in terms of membership dues for OEA and AFT, but it does create animosity and discourages teachers from working here. Why teach in Oklahoma when you can go to another state and make much more money and get treated with respect?
Here in Oklahoma, our taxpayer-funded colleges train some of the brightest teachers in the world, and then many leave the state and take their talents with them. I want people to “just say no” to that self-defeating cycle, but don’t expect anything to happen soon.