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Oklahoma earthquakes raise calls for restrictions on energy firms

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Earthquakes in Oklahoma in the past week, including one of the strongest ever recorded in the state, have led to calls for the governor to make changes to oil and gas drilling regulations and reduce seismic activity scientists link to the energy industry.

Two large earthquakes were recorded in northwest Oklahoma on Wednesday, including a magnitude 4.8 quake. The quakes were part of a surge in seismic activity over the past several years.

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Scientists have tied a sharp increase in the intensity and frequency of quakes in Oklahoma to the disposal of saltwater, a byproduct of oil and gas extraction, into deep wells. Oil fields have boomed in Oklahoma over the past decade thanks to advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

State Representative Richard Morrissette, a Democrat who has said the state’s Republican leaders are not doing enough to address the problem, will host a public forum at the Capitol on Friday to discuss the rash of earthquakes.

He wants the state to halt operation of injection wells at quake sites and do more to prevent them from causing quakes.

“No one in a position of authority is taking this seriously,” said Morrissette, who accused the state’s leadership of bowing to pressure from the energy industry.

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Morrissette is hoping to build grassroots support to take on the oil and gas drilling industry, a powerful player for decades in the state and a major source of employment.

The industry is Oklahoma’s largest source of private capital spending and tax revenue and accounts for about 10 percent of the state’s annual economy, according to the Oklahoma State Chamber, which represents more than 1,000 Oklahoma businesses.

Although the quakes last week caused no major reported damage or injuries, they left many Oklahomans shaken. Firms providing quake insurance saw a surge in calls inquiring about coverage.

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“We don’t have overall data on how much injection is going on in this area, but we attribute most of the earthquakes these days to deep injection of produced oil wastewater,” said Jerry Doak, director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

State leaders have been instituting changes, but critics said they have not gone far enough.

In response to the quakes, Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, said last week that the state has been regulating disposal wells, taking some steps to limit their injection rate and depth of their injections.

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“Science is ever-evolving as to what actually causes earthquakes. We know that disposal wells can cause earthquakes, but not all earthquakes. There are fault lines that are just natural in Oklahoma,” she told The Oklahoman newspaper.

Energy companies have also been responding.

Phillips 66 has overhauled how it plans for earthquakes, a sign U.S. energy companies are starting to react to rising seismicity around the world’s largest crude storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, site of many disposal wells.

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The changes include new protocols for inspecting the health of crude tanks, potentially halting operations after temblors, and monitoring quake alerts.

The strongest quake recorded in Oklahoma was a magnitude 5.5 that struck in April 1952, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

(Reporting by Heide Brandes; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


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2020 Election

UAW strike ‘threatens to upend the economy in Michigan’ — and could destroy Trump’s re-election: report

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At the end of the first week of a major strike by the United Auto Workers, the employment standoff threatens to upend President Donald Trump's 2020 re-election map, the Chicago Times reported Saturday.

Approximately 46,000 workers have been striking against General Motors.

There are two major threats to Trump's campaign from the strike.

The first is that the strike could cause regional recessions -- threatening Trump's political standing in key Rust Belt states.

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Security forces fired live rounds at protesters calling for the ouster of Egyptian president: report

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Egyptian security forces clashed with hundreds of anti-government protesters in the port city of Suez on Saturday, firing tear gas and live rounds, said several residents who participated in the demonstrations.

A heavy security presence was also maintained in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Egypt's 2011 revolution, after protests in several cities called for the removal of general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Such demonstrations are rare after Egypt effectively banned protests under a law passed following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist ex-president Mohamed Morsi.

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‘They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!’: Trump freaks out about other people acting nuts

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After a disastrous week dominated by news about the whistleblower alleging President Donald Trump committed misconduct in office, President Donald Trump lashed out at the media for covering his scandals.

In Trump's mind, however, it was the media who "had a very bad week" as he repeated his call that journalists are "The Enemy of the People!"

Trump, who has almost 65 million followers on Twitter, claimed without evidence that the press doesn't check facts, makes up facts and even make up sources.

Trump then claimed it is the media who have gone "totally crazy" he argued, with "crazy" in all capital letters and followed by four exclamation points.

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