A respected financial services company just recently stated the obvious: Oklahoma’s dramatic surge in the number of earthquakes it now experiences creates major financial risks for homeowners, mortgage companies, and, of course, the oil and gas industry.
A recently released analysis by Standard & Poor’s stated this as part of its overview:
The practice of fracking is clearly controversial. Environmentalists and local residents have raised a number of concerns, and many within and outside of the energy industry continue to study these issues. We believe increased earthquakes near fracking sites represent a risk that could harm investors across various sectors.
Those investors, according to the report, include “ . . . numerous types of businesses and individuals affected. Although this report focuses on credit risk only in mortgage lending, insurance and real estate, specifically, many other sectors are affected, such as transportation, infrastructure, and utilities.”
Read the word “individuals” in the above paragraph as “homeowners,” who are wondering if the growing number and intensity of the manmade earthquakes are steadily damaging their homes and decreasing their values. Also, who wants to buy a house in an area that gets rattled on a daily basis by earthquakes? Our property values here may well plummet in a downward spiral that could devastate the economy.
But at least the oil and gas industry is doing well, right? Well, no. Because of a “boom/drill, baby drill” mentality and just poor planning by industry experts, the nation faces a fossil-fuel glut right now because of the recent fracking boom, which has driven down prices and caused many companies here and elsewhere to lay off employees.
But it seems Earthquake Central, OK is getting the worst of it all.
Many of the earthquakes are occurring in central and central-north Oklahoma right now. The Oklahoma City area, the state’s most populated, is relatively close to the epicenter of many of the earthquakes. If a major earthquake in the 6.0 to 8.0 range struck near Edmond, for example, the resulting damage would be enormous, and, in all seriousness, would lead to a massive migration from the state. It could even be worse than the aftermath in New Orleans in 2005 of the hurricane Katrina.
Just a few years ago, Oklahoma experienced only one to two minor earthquakes a year. Then the recent fracking boom commenced with much media fanfare and spurred on by major state tax breaks, and the number of earthquakes started to rise. A 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck near Prague on November 5, 2011, and the temblors just kept coming.
Oklahoma could experience more than 800 earthquakes this year of 3.0-magnitude or higher, which is simply an incredible number in a place not designed for anything close to that much seismic activity. The state actually leads the contiguous United States right now in the number of earthquakes of that magnitude or higher.
In the fracking process, water laced with toxic chemicals is injected by high pressure into underground rock formations creating fissures that release fossil fuels. The wastewater is then injected by high pressure in other underground rock formations. Scientists have concluded it’s the wastewater disposal or injection well process that is triggering earthquakes along the state’s fault lines.
The analysis, which was reported on by StateImpact Oklahoma, clearly notes the risks to homeowners because of the earthquakes.
. . . we believe the potential for property damage from increased incidences of earthquakes may be a liability for the energy and insurance industries, lenders, property owners, and real estate investors. It's unclear who will be liable in any given circumstance. However, future risks clearly exist.
I must note here that I’ve been essentially arguing for years what Standard & Poor’s has now formalized in financial jargon and legalese. This is not to toot my own horn. I bring it up only because the corporate media here, especially The Oklahoman, has been complicit with the oil and gas industry in preventing any real discussion of this serious issue. The clear lesson here: Do NOT trust the corporate media or, I should add, state leaders, such as Gov. Mary Fallin, who receive massive campaign donations from the oil and gas industry, especially on this issue.
Standard & Poor’s ends the analysis with this: “It can take a long time for subterranean pressures to build to a breaking point. So, too, for credit risks tied to earthquakes. In our view, however, the moment to prepare for such events has already arrived.”
It's long past time to prepare.
I’ve been trying today to remember a time when Oklahoma’s national image was this negative and, really, just downright cataclysmic for the state, and I just can’t come up with a time period. The Dust Bowl days in the 1930s?
Here’s just a partial list of what has been in the national news about Oklahoma recently:
(1) We lead the nation in executions on a per capita basis.
(2) Oklahoma leads the nation in the number of fatal police shootings on a per capita basis.
(3) We imprison the most women on a per capita basis.
(4) We lead the contiguous United States in the number of 3.0-magnitude or higher earthquakes we endure because of a portion of the fracking process.
(5) We have cut education funding the most of any state since the 2008 economic downturn.
(6) Attorney General Scott Pruitt continues his relentless and laughable legal wars against the Environmental Protection Agency and the Affordable Care Act.
(7) U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe recently held a snowball in his hand on the Senate floor and claimed once and for all it proves global warming is a left-wing conspiracy. He was widely mocked throughout the world.
(8) The governor’s daughter was living in a recreation vehicle at the state “mansion.” The story became known as “trailergate.” It got widespread, national coverage.
(9) The Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol has created controversy and silliness widely reported throughout the world.
(10) U.S. Sen. James Lankford isn’t doing much as a political leader these days but attacking Planned Parenthood based on secretly recorded and obviously biased and fraudulent videos. He’s widely known as a fanatic ideologue in Washington but adored by The Oklahoman editorial board as some wise sage.
(11) Oklahoma faces a massive teacher shortage because of low pay and poor working conditions. The state’s anti-education mentality has never been on such wide display than now, or at least I can’t remember such a time.
(12) The Oklahoma Health Care Authority just cut the payment rate for developmental disabilities service providers. Read that sentence again.
Fill in the blank. I know I’m leaving something out when I haven’t even mentioned state Rep. Sally Kern or any other of the cast of characters in the state legislature that sponsor obviously unconstitutional bills that cost the state money in legal fees when they have to be unsuccessfully defended.
We kill. We imprison. We cut education. We deny health care to poor people because they are poor. The world looks on at the spectacle, and it costs the state economic development and lowers our quality of life here.
There’s not much to be done to save Oklahoma’s image at this point, especially since the local media is complicit in the tragedy. They wallow in the cesspool, get used to the stench and rake in what conventional advertising dollars are still left out there based on the Okie spectacle . . . for now. Laugh or cry. Take your pick. Oklahoma is a longtime laughingstock of the world, and it’s only getting worse, folks. No, not even the Oklahoma City Thunder can get us out of this mess with a national championship.
(I only have time for a short post today. The post might seem negative to some people, but nothing will change if we ignore reality.)
My last post mentioned how Oklahoma leads the nation in the number of executions it performs on a per capita basis, but I failed to mention that Oklahoma City also leads the nation in the number of people on a per capita basis killed by police.
What’s the correlation? It seems obvious on one level. Oklahoma is a violent place where human lives are not as valued as they are elsewhere in the country or in many places in the world. I think this is true to some extent. The state has an abundance of “pro-life” religious people, including many state leaders, concerned about the welfare of embryos, but they care less about people put to death on a regular basis by the state or killed by police.
Here’s a Washington Post article about police killings on a national level, listing Oklahoma City as the highest in the nation in such deaths. Here’s a database in The Guardian that does the same thing.
Okay, yes, it’s too easy to just pass off Oklahoma as a violent place that doesn’t value human life. It’s nuanced. Oklahoma’s lack of anything remotely close to adequate investment in education and mental health programs is probably the main reason for our high “kill” rate and our high incarceration numbers. Oklahoma, for example, also leads the nation in the number of women it incarcerates on a per capita basis.
We kill. We imprison. We don’t invest in education. We don’t invest in our citizens’ overall health. We do this under the false perception that we are friendly, pious folk, the nicest people in the world, right? I use “we” here because not enough people here speak up about these pressing issues, and I concede it’s probably best to just leave Oklahoma than fight the established power structure. What’s the point? Some of us get stuck here, of course, for a variety of reasons, usually related to family or employment, so we grit our teeth and endure the stench of death and mediocrity.
Unfortunately, given the current political climate in the state it appears not much is going to change anytime soon. Kill. Imprison. Cut public education funding. Cut public health funding. It’s in the water now. It’s Oklahoma tradition. This is now the real Oklahoma Standard.