Oklahoma earthquakes added new angle to fracking debate

December 2, 2015 | By Garrett Montgomery More

A series of Oklahoma earthquakes are being blamed on the oil industry’s fracking method. On Monday, more than seven earthquakes rattled north-central Oklahoma, an area that produces natural gas and oil.

Oklahoma earthquakes

This week, Oklahoma was rocked by seven earthquakes and some are pointing fingers at the booming oil and gas industries. According to experts, almost all of the temblors occurred in north-central Oklahoma on Monday at around 4 a.m.

The quakes were between 3.0 and 4.7 of magnitude and were felt over 300 miles away in the state of Iowa. Oklahoma officials said there were no injuries, but several structures suffered damages – including a 75-year-old building in Washington. Ron Van Etten, who works for the organization that owns the building revealed that several bricks fell from above the doorway. Etten shared:

“We don’t know positively that that’s what caused it. The way the earthquakes are going, it could be a possibility, we will have structural engineers look at what caused the bricks to fall from the east wall of the building.”

The Sooner State has rapidly climbed to the top of the list of places on earth most rocked by quakes. In 2012, there were a couple of dozens earthquakes, but thus far, there have been more than 720 this year. The reason – oil companies, which contribute $35 billion to Oklahoma’s gross domestic product, are using more and more the fracking process of drilling to get rocks to release the gas inside.

According to experts, many of the earthquakes occur in swarms in areas where injection wells pump salty wastewater – a byproduct of oil and gas production – deep into the Earth.

The new state became a focal point for the emerging oil industry, as discoveries of oil pools prompted towns to grow rapidly in population and wealth. Tulsa eventually became known as the “Oil Capital of the World” for most of the 20th century and oil investments fueled much of the state’s early economy.”

Oklahoma state Rep. Cory Williams, who is very concerned that powerful lobbyists backed by oil tycoons have made it impossible for the government to stop the rise in seismic activity, said:

“The problem is we’re being totally reactionary as opposed to proactive. We wait for a seismic event, and then we react to it, which is an abysmal policy for handling something that can cause catastrophic damage to property and/or life.”

Oil and gas industry officials are singing a different tune and say that they are working with regulators to come up with a solution. Chad Warmington, president of the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association, shared:

“If you just shut it down, it would be devastating. The goal is to be able to reduce earthquakes and still be able to produce.”

What are your thoughts on fracking?


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