State of Anxiety

Anti-Fracking Rally at the James Thompson Center Downtown Chicago, Illinois March 22, 2013

Does Oklahoma lead the world now in the number of earthquakes it experiences on an almost daily basis? It appears so, according to a headline in one recent article.

An article under the headline "It's Official: Oklahoma Experiences More Earthquakes Than Anywhere Else in the World" appeared on EcoWatch last week. The article points out to the world that Oklahoma's hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, boom has shaken things up here in not-so-positive ways. A recent spate of earthquakes in the 4.0-magnitude range in central Oklahoma over the last two weeks or so has completely undercut the latest argument that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and Gov. Mary Fallin are actually doing something to address the problem. There are so many earthquakes now that it's almost impossible to keep count in one's mind or at least to report on an accurate basis as they increase in numbers and/or intensity. The Corporation Commission has issued so many wastewater volume reduction orders for specific injection wells that it's almost impossible to keep track of them as well.

What we know for sure is that the earthquakes keep coming. Oklahoma is on track to experience more than 900 earthquakes, maybe more, at the 3.0-magnitude range or above this year. Just a few years ago, the state experienced a couple of small quakes annually. I think back to the oil boom and bust in the late 1970s and early 1980s here in Oklahoma. I lived through that. I remember bank failures, a terrible economy and a loss of jobs. I don't remember any earthquakes.

I live and work in central Oklahoma, and I feel the earthquakes in the morning and night at my home, and while I'm sitting at my desk at work, or when I'm teaching in a college classroom. They are so frequent that my family, friends, colleagues and students don't even sometimes acknowledge the smaller ones or we just say "did you feel that one" and move on to whatever we were doing. But what is the long-term cost of all the shaking on our homes and property here? What are the chances of a large 6.0-magnitude or above earthquake striking here and killing people and destroying buildings and infrastructure? The answers, respectively, to each question: "A lot of money to repair damage" and "a great probability."

Here's a link to the article:

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