The Oklahoman

Ten Questions About The Oklahoma Earthquake Crisis

Balcombe anti fracking camp on Flickr The Commons

Here’s a list of ten questions about the ongoing earthquake crisis here in central Oklahoma:

(1) What is the current financial cost of the overall damage to houses, buildings, highway infrastructure and the environment because of the recent earthquake crisis caused by the hydraulic fracturing process in Oklahoma?

(2) How can house owners prove all the foundational/wall cracks and warped windowsills and doorsills were even caused by the earthquakes even though the residents absolutely know they occurred right after particular earthquakes?

(3) How much will the earthquakes lower property values here?

(4) The first major earthquake related to the fracking process was near Prague in Nov. 5, 2011? Why has it taken Gov. Mary Fallin and other state leaders so long to respond to the crisis?

(5) What are some of the potential impacts if the earthquake surge goes on for several more years or decades or indefinitely?

(6) The Oklahoman editorial board continues to insist the state has adequate earthquake policies in effect. Why won’t it allow dissenting views to this position since so much is at stake for everyone?

(7) When will an enterprising attorney or law firm start a highly visible class action lawsuit against the oil and gas industry on this issue?

(8) State leaders, the media and some people in the oil and gas industry are always quick to point out it’s the wastewater injection wells used in the fracking process not the actual fracking itself that causes the earthquakes. Since the two processes are inextricably linked, why make a big deal about the distinction or why not simply dispose of the toxic wastewater in a safer manner?

(9) Why won’t the Oklahoma Corporation Commission do more to try to stop the earthquakes, such as issuing a complete or limited moratorium on wastewater injection disposal wells?

(10) It is expected the state could experience 800 or more 3.0-magnitude earthquakes in 2015. That’s a staggering number, and it’s growing exponentially. Just a few years ago, Oklahoma experienced on average only two or three earthquakes a year. What annual number of earthquakes would force a massive human migration from Earthquake Central, OK?

Be sure to read my last post about the complicity of Gov. Mary Fallin, The Oklahoman and the oil and gas industry to downplay the earthquake emergency here. Here’s another recent Okie Funk take on the crisis.

Newspaper, Fallin Complicit In Earthquake Crisis

Image of Picasso work

Let it be clear that Gov. Mary Fallin and The Oklahoman are complicit in the dreadfully slow and inadequate response to the state’s ongoing earthquake crisis created by the fracking process.

As I’ve written before, we are experiencing a crisis. To call it anything else is frankly dishonest. The state will probably experience more than 800 earthquakes this year of 3.0-magnitude or higher. That’s an incredible number for Oklahoma, and the science clearly points to disposal wastewater wells used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as the reason for all the shaking and rattling.

Here are two dates to consider: November 5, 2011 and August 7, 2015. The first date is when a 5.6-earthquake struck near Prague causing significant damage. The second date is today, as I post this, and no action of any major significance has been taken.

The Oklahoman on its editorial page argues the state has “solid” earthquake policies in place and is acting in a responsible manner. Fallin, who has finally acknowledged the link between the earthquakes and fossil fuel drilling here, points to a reduction in well volumes at some sites believed to be triggering the quakes.

But it’s simply laughable that the state has handled the issue in an adequate manner. The number and intensity of the quakes keep growing. This is a real crisis—and it’s a bipartisan issue—that demands more immediate action, which should include at least seriously considering a moratorium on disposal wastewater wells. Reducing volume amounts may or may not work in the long run. The scientists simply don’t know. What we do know is that the entire fracking process is incredibly damaging to the environment. Fallin needs to declare a state emergency and seek disaster help and relief from the federal government. This is an issue too large for a state such as Oklahoma to handle effectively.

Both The Oklahoman and Fallin have obviously been siding with the state’s oil and gas industry, which initially and blatantly argued the quakes were of a natural origin. That’s all changed now, but the oil and gas industry has a powerful political lobby in the state. It’s not going away anytime soon.

The Oklahoman is owned by Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, who made his money in the drilling business. The oil and gas industry, according to OpenSecrets.org, has been a top donor to Fallin’s political campaigns.

In the fracking process, water laced with highly toxic chemicals is injected into underground rock formations to create fissures that release fossil fuels. The wastewater is then injected by high pressure underground. Scientists believe it is the wastewater injection that is triggering earthquakes along fault lines here and elsewhere.

No one can deny that the oil and gas industry is important to the state’s economy, but what about damage to people’s homes and other property caused by the quakes. How many 3.0-magnitude and higher earthquakes can a house endure before there is serious foundational problems or other damage? What if the manmade earthquakes go on for years or decades near highly populated areas in central Oklahoma?

Keating Gets It All Wrong On Blaine

Keating Gala from Flickr The Commons

An op-ed about the Ten Commandments monument controversy by former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating has an illogical premise and contains distorted historical information.

One question is whether the distortion is deliberate or just based on a basic lack of knowledge about the state’s history, a lack of a careful consideration of logical human behavior and, well, a lack in understanding just how the concept of time works.

The commentary, which basically argues voters should repeal a section of the state’s constitution so the Ten Commandments monument can remain on state Capitol grounds, appeared recently in The Oklahoman. The newspaper’s editorial board has also urged a repeal of the section.

Keating and the newspaper are obviously free to argue for a repeal of Article 2, Section 5 of the constitution, of course, but they should be called out on their faulty logic. Let’s call it what it is: Keating and the newspaper’s editors want an undeniably religious and exclusive monument supporting the Judeo-Christian tradition at the Capitol. They apparently don’t care that if their argument prevails the state will no doubt face an expensive lawsuit at the federal level.

Here’s the language of the constitutional section in question:

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

In a recent 7-2 ruling, the Oklahoma Supreme Court argued that the section means the monument must be removed. The court has upheld its ruling. The monument was put up in 2012 and paid for by the family of state Rep. Mike Ritze, a Republican from Broken Arrow and a Southern Baptist ordained deacon and Sunday school teacher.

Ritze and others have made the strained argument that the Ten Commandments monment represents an historic legal framework for Western culture and so that’s why it belongs at the Capitol. They have also said the monument is similar to the one at the Texas state Capitol. The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote has ruled that monument can remain in place.

First, the Oklahoma monument is obviously religious. The Ten Commandments come from the Bible. Placing such a monument at the Capitol obviously is in violation of any reasonable reading of Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Second, the Texas case is not at all similar to the issue in Oklahoma. The monument in Texas went legally unchallenged for 40 years thus solidifying a peculiar but specific historical claim to legitimacy, one with which I don’t agree but have to accept. It’s also part of a larger display of other monuments and markers. That isn’t the case in Oklahoma. The motivation for the monument here is singularly religious-based on the Bible and exclusive of other religious and secular traditions and beliefs.

Now some state leaders, along with Keating and The Oklahoman, want voters to repeal Article 2, Section 5 in the constitution. Keating and the newspaper make the argument that the section is based on the failed Blaine Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in the late 1800s. Many states adopted similar language in their own constitutions. Some considered the Blaine Amendment to be an anti-Catholic schools measure at the time, but that obscures the issue of the separation of church and state and the issue of providing free public education to all children. Those were two basic intentional concerns of the amendment as well.

Thus, Keating argues:

A second suspect minority that came into the sights of our early Legislature was my faith community, Catholics. About the time that legislative Democrats were passing odious “Jim Crow” laws and attempting to restrict the public use of alcohol so that consumption of wine at the Catholic Mass would be discouraged, Oklahoma’s constitution mirrored those of 34 other states by including a simple proviso intended to retard the further spread of Catholic education and Catholic values.

Keating is entirely wrong. Go back and read the section of the state constitution I cited. It contains no mention of Catholicism. The section has more in common with the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution and separation of church and state than any concerted effort to specifically “retard the further spread of Catholic education.” The implicit comparison of Article 2, Section 5 to Jim Crow laws in Keating’s commentary is itself “odious” and repulsive. Just a cursory look of Keating’s biographical history shows he grew up with and has benefited from white privilege. Does he really want us to see him as a victim of discrimination? Keating’s argument also presupposes that those people who put together the state constitution were so dumb and such extreme anti-Catholic bigots they didn’t understand the sweeping nature of the language in Article 2, Section 5, which is simply false. This is actually a tremendous insult to those who met in 1906 to put together the Oklahoma Constitution. Keep in mind, the Blaine Amendment was initially proposed in 1875. That’s a 31-year difference between that event and the initial work on the Oklahoma Constitution. It’s obvious that three decades later the intention and language of the section, no matter what its first roots, would have been completely separate from what was going on in 1875.

But it’s the argument’s overall premise that should really make people cringe. Here’s Keating’s simplistic premise: Article 2, Section 5 was based on discrimination against Catholics and so therefore we should do away with it and allow a religious monument to be erected on the public square under the same right-wing Protestant view that generated such discrimination in the first place. Southern Baptists, in particular, were widely known to be at odds with Catholics in this country until even the 1980s. That’s well established and was even an issue in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

Southern Baptists and Catholics now share a right-wing political agenda in this country, officially opposing abortion, for example, so Article 2, Section 5, even if it were initially and entirely based on an anti-Catholic school sentiment, now has actually united the two religious denominations in opposition to it. In other words, Keating’s take on the history of the so-called “Blaine Amendments,” even if it were true, which it isn’t, is no longer applicable. Ritze, a Protestant, and Keating, a Catholic, want the same legal and/or voting outcome. There’s no operative discrimination in place specifically against Catholics because of Article 2, Section 5. How can anyone with Keating’s educational background not understand that?

It’s all enough to make your head hurt if you think too much about Keating’s tortuous argument.

The bottom line is that Keating and the newspaper want an exclusive religious monument at the state Capitol to promote and publicly sanction the Judeo-Christian tradition. That’s the real discrimination going on here.

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