by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Earthquakes in Oklahoma are shaking up the politics of its natural gas friendly state government. According to a June 27th article in Energy Wire, Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission, under public pressure, will start collecting information and test data on underground injection wells.
The problem is that Oklahoma have become seismically active. Between the months of October and May Oklahoma had more magnitude 3.0 or larger earthquakes (189) than California (with 139). Other reports state that the number of quakes in Oklahoma is double the number in Caliphornia. The locations of the quakes closely correspond with fracking sites. State regulators say to need more evidence of the correlation despite the stack of scientific, peer reviewed studies supporting the correlations.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported 40 earthquakes greater than magnitude 2.5 around the world yesterday as of midafternoon — six of them were in Oklahoma and three were outside this suburb of Oklahoma City.
“You can hear them coming,” said Mary Ternes, who lives near Edmond. “You can hear the rumble and then the house shakes.”
The largest quake so far measured 5.7 and killed two people back in 2011, but the risk of higher magnitude quakes is growing.
While Oklahoman’s are beginning to come out in significant numbers to public hearings to complain, state officials and regulators are taking starting to take the first step to address their concerns.
New rules on injection wells, approved by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin last week, will require operators to perform more frequent mechanical integrity tests of disposal wells and keep daily records of the amount of fluids they inject and the pressures they use.
Meanwhile, Skinner said, state regulators have told operators to shut in several injection wells for minor violations such as excessive pressure. The Corporation Commission also held formal hearings on two injection wells proposed near existing faults and asked the operators to do additional monitoring as a condition of approval. Previously, most injection well permits were approved administratively.
According to The Oklahoman newspaper about four-hundred worried resident of Edmond, Oklahoma came out to a meeting this past Thursday evening to express their fear and concerns. Many of them had been awakened by a magnitude 3.5 quake near Edmond in the wee hours of that same morning.
The Oklahoman report:
Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland said there is no way to know what has caused the unprecedented increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma, although several studies have linked temblors to oil and natural gas activity, particularly wastewater injection wells.
Many residents were no happy with the answers they got at the meeting.
the problem isn’t just happening in Oklahoma it’s happening in Texas and Ohio and many other states where fracking operations are taking place. Alan Brundrett, the mayor of a small town call Azle, in North Texas, said his town has experienced an unusual number of earthquakes. He is upset by the lack of data and transparency of local fracking operations that make it hard to assess the issues.
According to an Al Jazeera report:
Brundrett said the Texas Railroad Commission would not draw a link between fracking activities and earthquakes in the meeting, but promised to investigate the matter further.
Ramona Nye, who handles media relations for the Railroad Commission, told Al Jazeera in an emailed statement that the agency “does not have the jurisdictional authority to shut down an injection well based only on the presence of a nearby earthquake.
“There has been no scientific proof that a specific well or wells have caused the Azle-area earthquakes,” she said, adding that the commission had hired a seismologist in April who is working to determine any links between fracking and earthquakes.
State geologists in Ohio have already made the case that the quake activity there is the result of fracking activity.
According to a report from International Business Times:
Fracking involves pumping water, sand and chemicals down into wells and horizontal pipes to crack open rock and extract oil and gas. Often, the wastewater created is dumped back into the ground, which according to the U.S. Geological Survey, is linked to a sixfold increase in earthquakes from 2000 to 2011. [snip]
ast month, Ohio regulators indefinitely shut down Hilcorp Energy’s fracking operation near the Pennsylvania border after five earthquakes, one of 3.0 magnitude, rattled Ohioans.
According to Oil Price.Com, an oil and energy news site:
In March, 2014. there was a study entitled “Potentially induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, USA: Links between wastewater injection and that 2011 Mw 5.7 earthquake sequence,” [snip]The study
focused its research on seismic activity in Oklahoma over the past two years and concluded that a 4.8-magnitude earthquake centered near Prague on 5 November 2011, was “induced” by the injection wells. Two subsequent earthquakes, including a 5.7-magnitude “event” the following day, was the biggest in contemporary state history, were caused by the first earthquake and existing tectonic stresses in the earth.
The growing body of scientific evidence and the growing public concern about fracking are reaching a critical mass and even the most business friendly politicians are starting to feel the ground shift.