The above video is of Danielle Dozier from Oklahoma City television station KOCO5 reacting to an earthquake three weeks ago. This weekend, Oklahoma saw seven earthquakes in only two days. That means that Oklahoma, previously 19th in the country for quake occurrences, has now overtaken California, previously 2nd, for most quakes in 2014. This is about as far from normal as you can get.
“Damage and injury are far more likely with quakes that register 4.0 and higher…”
So, this is new and not good and the government thinks it’s because of fracking in Oklahoma. In May, the U.S. Geological Survey warned that Oklahomans could be expecting a lot more earthquakes in the future. There are nearly 3,000 fracking operations in Oklahoma, many around the Oklahoma City area where these quakes are occurring.
These Quakes Are Bad And Getting Worse
All seven were either magnitude 4 or below, strong enough knock things off shelves and crack foundations. While the magnitude is a problem it’s the frequency and number of quakes that’s the real problem. Since 2009, the occurrence of magnitude 3 or above quakes has increased by 7 times. I know that can be a little vague so here’s a chart showing just how much of an increase this is.
The increase is serious and should be taken seriously.
No One Died, This Time
Eventually someone will. A region, any region, can’t see earthquakes over and over again of increasing power and frequency without something eventually collapsing. That’s how earthquakes and civilization work.
“As of June 16, 2014, California had recorded about 140 quakes of 3.0-magnitude or greater, compared with Oklahoma’s 207.”
Add in that Oklahoma isn’t ready for earthquakes in the same way that California is and we have a growing problem. Combined with the chart above, take a look at this one showing all the top earthquake states in the country. Think about how preparations for earthquakes might be different in, say, number 19, compared to how they might be made in number 2.
Is This Caused By Fracking, The Modern Practice Whereby Natural Gas Is Extracted?
Yes, absolutely. There is zero question among non-corporately affiliated geologists that fracking can cause earthquakes and that it’s causing the major increase in Oklahoma. Here’s the relevant text from the May Press Release:
USGS statistically analyzed the recent earthquake rate changes and found that they do not seem to be due to typical, random fluctuations in natural seismicity rates. Significant changes in both the background rate of events and earthquake triggers needed to have occurred in order to explain the increases in seismicity, which is not typically observed when modeling natural earthquakes.
The analysis suggests that a likely contributing factor to the increase in earthquakes is triggering by wastewater injected into deep geologic formations. This phenomenon is known as injection-induced seismicity, which has been documented for nearly half a century, with new cases identified recently in Arkansas, Ohio, Texas and Colorado. A recent publication by the USGS suggests that a magnitude 5.0 foreshock to the 2011 Prague, Okla., earthquake was human-induced by fluid injection; that earthquake may have then triggered the mainshock and its aftershocks. OGS studies also indicate that some of the earthquakes in Oklahoma are due to fluid injection.
To be clear, fluid injection into the bedrock to break loose natural gas is exactly what fracking is. As the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has increased in Oklahoma so has the amount of earthquakes.
What’s more, a number of studies concretely tied fracking to earthquakes years ago and the science has only gotten stronger since then.
Why Are Some Acting Like Fracking Isn’t Causing This?
If you listen to the news, especially cable news, then you couldn’t be blamed for being up in the air as to whether natural gas drilling is causing these earthquakes. The press has been very “who knows” about the entire issue and has largely avoided citing sources or interviewing experts that have an interest in providing unbiased data to Americans. Mostly what you get is corporate experts teamed up against concerned citizens in a kind of public fight ceremony where no conclusion is reached and the entire issue is pushed off until the next earthquake. Here’s an example from CNN’s written coverage:
It’s possible that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could have played a role in causing temblors, but there’s no way to be sure until the USGS files its findings, Myers said. It does that once a month.
In short, fracking works like this: A well is typically drilled between 5,000 to 20,000 feet into the earth’s crust, then turns 90 degrees and continues horizontally for several thousand feet to where shale containing natural gas is believed to be.
A mix of water, sand and chemicals is pumped at high pressure into the well to create long, narrow cracks or openings in the earth through which gas can escape.
The sand particles keep the fissures open, allowing for natural gas to escape from the shale and flow into the well.
The gas, along with the waste water, is drawn back up the well to the surface, where it is processed, refined and shipped.
See those weasel words? “Controversial” and “no way to know?” Well, CNN’s access to the U.S. Geological Survey’s website and public assessments is just as good as mine is so what’s going on here? Well, I can tell you this much, the assessment from the U.S. Geological Survey which I quoted from above was also linked in the CNN article so either they don’t trust the USGS or they’re willfully ignoring their concrete conclusion that fracking is causing these earthquakes.
That’s irresponsible an when a big one does eventually occur and the press and the President and many members of Congress act like they don’t know what happened then remember, everyone already knew what was going on. They knew from the start.
I’m all for natural gas extraction. It’s a far cleaner fuel than oil and coal and it’s plentiful but the question hangs out there “at what cost?” And if we’re calculating cost then what’s the unit of value, safety and sound ecology or cubic feet of gas? For now, we have our answer.
It’s about money.