There’s not much more startling than waking up to a 3.7-magnitude earthquake shaking and rattling your house, but that’s what happened to many of us Sunday morning in central Oklahoma, and it’s the “new normal” here.
No big deal, right? The epicenter of the earthquake that hit around 7:15 a.m. was about four miles east of Edmond.
Of course, The Oklahoman doesn’t want us to worry about it because the oil and gas industry, which scientists claim is causing all the earthquakes and damaging our homes and property through an element of the fracking process, is spending so much money to try to fix the problem. But the reality is that the quakes keep coming at stupendously bizarre record levels, and our state leaders, especially the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt have sold us out to the frackers.
The newspaper published what really shouldn’t be called a “story” on Aug. 23 explaining that disposal well operators have spent more than $35 million to try to stop the earthquakes. The story, written by Adam Wilmoth, is nothing more than a publicity release for the oil and gas industry, and the $35 million number is highly questionable. Here’s a paragraph from the story:
”The industry has done a really good job of cooperating and coordinating with the Corporation Commission," Commissioner Dana Murphy said this month at the Tri-State Oil and Gas Convention in Woodward. "You're talking about $150,000 to $250,000 or more for these companies not just to shut down their wells, but to plug them back."
Good job? What about all the earthquakes that keep shaking things up here? A $100,000 difference in the range of money to “plug them back”? It’s completely not credible information. Do not believe anything “official” about this issue that emits from the mouths of an Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner these days. Do, however, read this story about campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry received by Murphy and other commissioners and Pruitt. Be sure to note, as I’ve pointed out in the past, that Fallin has received thousands upon thousands of dollars in campaign contribution from oil and gas interests in her political career as well.
I’ve written a version of the following paragraph countless number of times in the past few years.
In the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process, water laced with toxic chemicals is injected underground by high pressure to create fissures in rock formations that release fossil fuels. The wastewater is then injected by high pressure into what are called disposal or injection wells. Scientists have confirmed it’s the disposal well process that is causing Oklahoma’s staggering amount of earthquakes.
The state is on track to experience more than 800 earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or higher this year, the most in the contiguous United States. Just a few years ago, the state only experienced two or three minor earthquakes a year. The fracking boom, which has already gone bust, has turned the central and north-central part of the state into a property owner’s and realtor’s nightmare.
The constant shaking has to be damaging homes and property. Meanwhile, people here live with the worry that one of those earthquakes is going to keep going and going and going and turn into a significant disaster that will destroy homes and maybe even kill and injure people. The scientists say it could happen. They even say it might not even matter if fracking or disposal wells were banned here. The damage has already been done. Read this about issuing a moratorium on disposal wells:
Such a ban would not only prohibit the operation of a legally permitted activity, but also shut down wells that are not linked to earthquakes. In fact, experts say shutting down injection could make the earthquakes worse, and even create larger environmental problems.
As Oklahoma’s state seismologist Dr. Austin Holland has observed, stopping injections could actually cause new earthquakes, adding that there is “a fair amount of modeling that shows that might be the case.” There are also many cases where earthquakes continue after injection ceases, according to Holland.
The only solution to this problem is political. We need political leaders who care about the vast majority of people who live here rather than one industry that donates a lot of money to campaigns and has a powerful political lobby. The oil and gas industry is going to be here until it has sucked out the last drop of oil or the last cubic foot of natural gas from the ground. The approach or approaches to stopping and limiting the manmade earthquakes may well be nuanced and complicated, but we’re not even going to get to that point with our current state leadership.
Here are seven things we CAN do:
(1) Do not trust the word of Fallin, Pruitt, any member of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission or The Oklahoman about the earthquake issue.
(2) Vote for local and statewide politicians that are concerned about earthquake damage to your home and other property.
(3) Be ready to join a class action lawsuit or lawsuits against disposal well operators and the oil and gas industry.. Standard & Poor’s, which rates credit risks, has already pointed out the possible numerous financial implications and dangers of Oklahoma’s earthquakes.
(4) Show up at meetings or town halls about the issue. The Oklahoma Sierra Club is an excellent resource to use to find out about such meetings.
(5) Carefully document any damage to your property caused by an earthquake. Note the time and date and confirm it with the Oklahoma Geological Survey. Take photographs of the damage.
(6) Join the growing movement to create more renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
(7) Know what you need to do during an earthquake. Many experts tell people to find cover under a table or something sturdy rather than run outside, which is a normal reaction.
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.
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?