Fracked Up Oklahoma Becomes Number One In Earthquakes

Congrats, Oklahoma! Every once in a while you hear about your home state doing something impressive. For example, in 2014 Oklahoma was the first in the nation for cost effectiveness in doing business. This is likely due to it being only third in cost-of-living prices and 41st in wages, but the Chamber of Commerce will ignore that. Now the “cost” of doing the business of energy is earning it a title that isn’t all that positive: First in earthquakes. That’s right, the state is number one in the world for earthquakes.

If you’ve ever lived in California, or seen the movie, San Andreas, you know that the state rumbles all the time with little mini-quakes from San Diego to San Francisco. But Oklahoma’s once dormant fault line is no longer inactive, perhaps in part because sucking natural gas out of the ground and replacing it with saltwater and chemicals disturbs it.

“We have had 15 (earthquakes) in Medford since 5 o’clock Saturday morning,” Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner said. “We’ve got an earthquake issue.”

The Corporation Commission got curious about what they call “earthquake clusters” where there is a quake and then another one very nearby. They started surveying quakes above a 3.2 in magnitude within three miles of each other but evidently that was becoming too common so they expanded it to a six-mile radius. The radius of interest keeps growing and now it’s basically become the whole state or a total of about 9,000 square miles.

The cause, Skinner says, is indeed related to fracking which takes the oil or gas out of the ground and then injects water and chemicals used to pull it out back into rock formations below the oil fields. Remember, these high-pressure “injections” are made up of saltwater and chemicals like arsenic and lead. The main reason oil companies injected those chemicals into the basement rock is because they are the same ones used to drill and have to be disposed of somehow. No one wants it in the water supply so you can literally light your water on fire. So they inject it back into the ground which clearly doesn’t want it either.

“It’s overwhelming data over 40 years, 50 years, that that behavior is not something you want to do in a seismically active state,” he said.

No kidding, Einstein?

Just a few weeks ago, a major story broke in Oklahoma that the city of Cushing, which holds the United States’ second largest oil reserve, is no longer safe. Not under the threat of terrorism, but under the threat of quaking. The giant oil tanks aren’t built to stand the state’s new seismic activity.

So, the state is now a national security threat and the earthquake capital of the world. What can the state do to fix it? Nothing, because at the same time Republican Governor Mary Fallin has bankrupted the state using the Sam Brownback Model for Success.  There’s no funding available to fix the problems that exist and the state’s biggest cash cow is causing its biggest problems. It’s times like these you wish you had someone in office who wasn’t such an idiot, so the state could find creative solutions to the problems stacking up.

Feature image via the USGS