As the Oklahoma Earthquake Debate Continues, Who Will Protect Families?

BY ON May 15, 2015

Drawing of mother and child hiding under a table during an earthquake

Earthquakes in Oklahoma continue to rattle the nerves of families, as the fracking and disposal well debate in Oklahoma continues. A couple of months ago, emails showed geologists in Oklahoma were possibly pressured by industry to avoid connecting the swarm of earthquakes to oil and gas disposal wells.

Shortly after, Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) released a statement saying that the increase in seismicity rates are “unlikely to represent a naturally occurring process.”

“Historically, the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) recorded on average about 1 1⁄2, magnitude three or greater (M3+) earthquakes each year, within Oklahoma. During 2013, the OGS observed on average about 2, M3+ earthquakes each week on average, and this rate continued to increase during 2014. Currently, the OGS is reporting on average about 2 1⁄2, M3+ earthquakes each day. The OGS considers it very likely that the majority of recent earthquakes, particularly those in central and north-central Oklahoma, are triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells.” ~ Oklahoma Geological Survey

The OGS says the triggered seismicity is not thought to be from hydraulic fracturing, but from disposal wells. Disposal wells are used in oil and gas production. Fracking fluids represent a small percent of the total volume of wastewater injected in disposal wells in Oklahoma.

Around the same time the OGS made their statement, the state of Oklahoma released a new Earthquake information website. The website echos the OGS statement that the earthquake increase is likely caused by disposal wells.

The website also features information about what the state is doing about the earthquakes, including the Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity. The council was formed in September 2014 under the direction of Governor Fallin. The website has an earthquake map with current earthquakes.

While this was happening, the Oklahoma House approved Senate Bill 809. This bill would prohibit local officials from banning oil and gas drilling in their cities.

The bill is expected to pass the Senate for final approval, sending the measure to the governor. An earlier version of the bill already was approved in the Senate. The bill is in response to the fracking ban that passed last year in Denton, Texas. Texas also has a ban aimed at prohibiting fracking bans.

Oklahoma was featured in a new national report on the risk of manmade earthquakes. Scientists across eight states with increased rates of “induced seismicity,” or earthquakes triggered by human activity, found that central Oklahoma saw the highest risk of increase.

Oklahoma is also currently in the middle of prime tornado season, which creates a very unique risk to Oklahoma — as the May 6th tornado outbreak saw a magnitude 2.9 earthquake.

As scientists warn of danger, “in a state where oil and gas are economic pillars,” earthquakes continue to shake families into wondering if there is a “lack of political will to confront an earthquake threat tied to Oklahoma’s dominant industry.” If this is the case, who will protect the citizens of Oklahoma from disaster?


TOPICS: Fracking, Natural Gas, Oklahoma, Politics