Oklahoma coming to terms with unprecedented surge in earthquakes

By Hailey Branson-Potts in the Los Angeles Times

Crescent, Okla., like much of the state, has been hit by numerous earthquakes in recent weeks. Many scientists blame drilling operations. (Mark Potts / LA Times)

When Austin Holland was being considered for his job as the sole seismologist at the Oklahoma Geological Survey in 2009, his interviewer posed a wry question: “Are you going to be able to entertain yourself as a seismologist in Oklahoma?”

Back then, the state had a 30-year average of only two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher per year. As it turns out, though, boredom has been the least of Holland’s concerns. Over the last five years, the state has had thousands of earthquakes — an unprecedented increase that has made it the second-most seismically active state in the continental United States, behind California.

The state had 109 temblors measuring 3.0 or greater in 2013 — more than 5,000% above normal. There have already been more than 200 earthquakes this year, Holland said.

Scientists have never observed such a dramatic swarm of earthquakes “in what’s considered a stable continental interior,” Holland said. “Whatever we’re looking at, it’s completely unprecedented.”

Oklahoma has always had the potential for earthquakes; it has a complex underlying fault system. But until recently, the most powerful quake of the modern era was a 5.5-magnitude temblor in 1952 that left a 15-meter crack in the state Capitol.

Scientists say the more likely cause of the recent increase is underground injection wells drilled by the oil and gas industry. About 80% of the state is within nine miles of an injection well, according to the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

Oklahoma has seen a boom in oil and gas production, including the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — the process of shooting water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth at high pressure to extract oil and natural gas. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and several universities suggest there is a link between the quakes and disposal wells, where wastewater from fracking is forced into deep geological formations for storage.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times

3 thoughts on “Oklahoma coming to terms with unprecedented surge in earthquakes

  1. This has been happening in every state that is fracking. TX, OH, MI, PA, NY, etc. I have lost count of the number of court cases. The state leaders will not help. Citizens have to go to the federal government to ask for help. The Federal Gov is so underfunded, understaffed and they are years behind. I will see if I can find supportive material that shows the relationship between earthquakes and the new techniques being used to extract oil and gas. The horror stories are not going to make the residence of this state happy.

    The chemicals and materials they use to force oil and gas to the surface is just as frightening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Americans want to believe that we can continue to live a 1960s lifestyle fueled by cheap, abundant fossil fuels. And the American Petroleum Institute is more than happy to encourage that fantasy.

      Even though Saudi Arabia has one-fifth of the world’s proven oil reserves, we in the United States are surpassing their production. Has energy become more affordable? Has the price gone done? Of course not.

      Because the availability and cost energy is a primary determinant of economic growth and vitality, our future as a nation will grow increasingly uncertain as long as we continue to embrace a national energy policy encouraged by wishful thinking and corporate greed.

      For the corporate “big boys,” I think the question is not whether there will be a dramatic change in our national energy policies, but one of how long they can succeed in delaying it and how much money can they make in the meantime.

      What the API and an uninformed American public routinely ignore are the enormous extrinsic costs associated with our continued and growing dependence on fossil fuels. When I hear people complain about the price of gasoline and electricity I am forced to smile. That gallon of gasoline and that kilowatt of electricity cost them much, much more than most of them may ever realize. Because when the final bill is presented for the costs to the American public for the oil spills, the ruined rivers and lakes, the cancer, the toxic spill cleanups, the lost fishing, the ruined agricultural base, the droughts, the unprecedented floods, hurricanes, the ruined aquifers, and the tens of millions of jobs lost to these disasters… Well, you can bet that it won’t be ExxonMobil or BP writing the check. The American people will.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sadly, very well said. I keep asking how did we get so blind. We have solved large issues in the past but corporations claim it was liberal lies now. Today, state after state is dealing with massive clean up cost. The company always end up in courts and the tax payers end up with the long term cost. Depending on the damage, the citizens and their children no longer have a safe place to live. NC is just one example. They do not know if they can touch the water, drink, bath, swim in the river, or play in the creek. When did we give up? When did we decide our children, our grandchildren are expendable?

        More and more citizens are fighting for their life. I am proud of them. They are car pooling and traveling to help support other states before their water is gone.
        http://blog.gaslandthemovie.com/?p=662

        Watch tribute to Terry Greenwood. http://blog.gaslandthemovie.com/?p=657

        Like

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