We recently discussed how Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, mocked the overwhelming consensus of scientists around the world on global warming. There have been similar denials of the link between earthquakes and the highly profitable practice of injecting wastewater into the ground from oil and gas production. Now, Oklahoma geologists have found strong evidence of the long-suggested link between waste injection and the massive increase in earthquakes in the state.
Farmers in states like Nebraska have been protesting state boards that continue this disposal technique, as we discussed in this story out of Kansas. These boards are often criticized as stacked with pro-industry members who refuse to consider the rising objections over contamination and earthquakes.
Oklahoma is recording 2-1/2 earthquakes daily of a magnitude 3 or greater, a seismicity rate 600 times greater than observed before 2008. Average people have to pay for the damage and injuries as these companies dump and move on in a highly profitable enterprise.
Despite the past denials, the increase has been astonishing in a relatively short time. In 2014, the state recorded 585 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater. In 2013, the number was 109 in 2013. Prior to 2008, Oklahoma averaged less than two a year.
The injection practice is in a part a result of the controversial system of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which generates huge amounts of wastewater. However, most of the waste is coming from other industry sources.
Despite the conclusions of the study, the industry remains opposed to any action at this time. Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association (OKOGA) President Chad Warmington issued a statement stating, “There may be a link between earthquakes and disposal wells, but we… still don’t know enough about how wastewater injection impacts Oklahoma’s underground faults.” In other worlds, it is nothing to get all shook up over.