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Keep on Fracking!

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29quake-master675

Now that the USGS has determined that Oklahoma has as much chance of a damaging earthquake in the next year as California, the only solution is to frack, frack away!

I was in your state writing about water not long ago, and the big worry indeed was that a quake would wreck the aqueduct network that carries water from rainy Northern California to the south. The big worry in Oklahoma is about another liquid: oil. Scientists say you can’t stop the quakes without cutting back drastically on the amount of wastewater pumped back into the ground, but the oil and gas industry can’t pump up the good stuff without bringing a torrent of wastewater with it, and if there’s no place to put it, pumping has to stop, or at least be dialed way back.

The prospect that Oklahoma’s cash cow might have to run dry to stop the tremors all but paralyzed state officials for years. You had the odd spectacle of hopping-mad citizens demanding action even as the governor ruminated that, well, maybe something else is making the state shake. Kansas, meanwhile, deemed quakes an imminent threat to the public and ordered steep cutbacks in waste disposal a year ago.

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  • Gwen

    Obviously this is a liberal scientist conspiracy lie, just like “global warming.”

    • Gwen

      Or “spherical Earth.”

      • Bill Murray

        isn’t the Earth an oblate spheroid?

        • Ken

          TEACH THE CONTROVERSY!

  • Philip
    • Gwen

      There’s actually been a lot of interesting research recently about the dynamics of intra-plate earthquakes. They are far less predictable than plate boundary quakes. It is entirely possible that we won’t see any big earthquakes in the Lower Mississippi Valley for thousands of years.

      Or perhaps, never.

      http://phys.org/news/2009-03-madrid-fault.html

      There is also a lot of debate about what caused the New Madrid seismic zone to start shaking in the first place. In short, the crust seems to be weaker there than in other parts of North America, but some people say hotspots, other people say sediment, etc.

      • Philip

        I always thought Hawaii was interesting, too.

        “It’s over a hotspot, that’s why it keeps forming a chain.”
        “Okay, makes sense. But why doesn’t the hotspot follow the motion of the plate? What even would the mechanism of a fixed plume within the mantle be?”
        “Good question! Give me fifty research teams and unlimited funding and let’s find out!”

    • liberalrob

      Just what the New Madrid zone needs, an increased level of earthquakes nearby it.

    • ChrisTS

      I did not see a map guide on that. Please tell me the blue areas are safe, please?

      • N__B

        Blue is the lowest acceleration that we design for. Gray is areas with so little ground acceleration that they effectively are quake-free.

  • BGinCHI

    Ok-la-homa where the whirlwind comes reaping down the plain!

  • DrDick

    Live by the gusher, die by the gusher! The oil and gas industry has basically owned the state for my whole life, so reining them in is going to be hard. On the other hand, from the reports I get from my sister and niece (who live in that red zone), indicate a lot of folks are getting fed up with this.

  • ThrottleJockey

    I don’t want them to ban fracking just make them strictly liable for their externalities.

    • NonyNony

      You may not realize it, but what you’re saying is pretty much “I don’t want them to ban fracking, I just want to make it financially impossible for them to actually frack”.

      • ChrisTS

        Perhaps more to the point, it’s saying “I don’t want to stop earthquakes, I just want the companies to pay for the clean up – and lost lives”

        • ThrottleJockey

          How many people have lost live to earthquakes caused by fracking? Has there been even one?

          • addicted44

            You’re right. We should wait until people die to try and solve problems which will predictably lead to people dying.

            • ChrisTS

              Thanks for sparing me the explanation.

              • ThrottleJockey

                Not everything worth saving a single life is worth doing. You’d save more lives imposing a nationwide speed limit of 55. In the last 20 years we’ve had precisely 2 deaths from earthquakes in this country. This is Oklahoma, you’d be better banning tornadoes.

                • The Dark God of Time

                  Oklahoma has already śurpased California as a seismically active zone. The question now isn’t if there is a loss of life, but when.

                  And there has already been significant property damage:

                  This Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011 file photo of a chimney that toppled and went through the roof at the home of Joe and Mary Reneau are pictured through a second-story screen window in Sparks, Okla.

                  Oklahoma has been hit by swarms of earthquakes over the last few years, and some residents have had enough.

                  This week, a group of 14 homeowners in Edmond, Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against 12 energy companies, claiming that the companies’ fracking operations have contributed to this uptick in earthquakes. Specifically, the lawsuit targets the companies’ wastewater disposal wells, claiming that the injection of fracking wastewater into these wells “caused or contributed” to earthquakes and constituted an “ultrahazardous activity.”

                  In the lawsuit, filed in Oklahoma County court, the residents focus on two earthquakes — of 4.3 and 4.2 magnitude — that struck Edmond on December 29 and January 1. The plaintiffs say they suffered damage from the earthquakes, and that the energy companies were “negligent, careless, and reckless” in their treatment of the earthquake risks surrounding wastewater injection.

                  “As a direct and proximate result of defendants’ negligence, plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer severe and permanent damage to their persons and property,” the lawsuit states. This damage includes “cracked and broken interior and exterior walls” and “movement of the foundations beneath their dwellings.” These damages have taken a toll on the residents psyches, too, causing “mental and emotional anguish, fear, and worry.”

                  Wastewater injection has been tied to increased earthquake risk before. The U.S. Geological Survey said in a report last year that many of the earthquakes that have peppered the Midwest since 2009 could be linked to oil and gas companies’ practice of injecting their wastewater deep underground. If wastewater is pumped into a fault, scientists think, it could cause the fault to slip, causing an earthquake. Researchers have linked wastewater injection to earthquakes in Texas and Ohio.

                  Oklahoma has seen a major uptick in earthquakes in recent years. From 1991 to 2008, Oklahoma experienced no more than three 3.0 magnitude or higher earthquakes every year. Then, in 2009, the state started to see an increase in earthquake activity. In 2014, Oklahoma was the most seismically active state in the lower 48 U.S. states, with 585 quakes. 2015 was even higher, with 857 quakes — more than all the lower 48 states combined.

                  http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/01/12/3738417/oklahoma-earthquake-residents-lawsuit/

                • The Dark God of Time

                  Oklahoma has already śurpased California as a seismically active zone. The question now isn’t if there is a loss of life, but when.

                  And there has already been significant property damage:

                  This Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011 file photo of a chimney that toppled and went through the roof at the home of Joe and Mary Reneau are pictured through a second-story screen window in Sparks, Okla.

                  Oklahoma has been hit by swarms of earthquakes over the last few years, and some residents have had enough.

                  This week, a group of 14 homeowners in Edmond, Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against 12 energy companies, claiming that the companies’ fracking operations have contributed to this uptick in earthquakes. Specifically, the lawsuit targets the companies’ wastewater disposal wells, claiming that the injection of fracking wastewater into these wells “caused or contributed” to earthquakes and constituted an “ultrahazardous activity.”

                  In the lawsuit, filed in Oklahoma County court, the residents focus on two earthquakes — of 4.3 and 4.2 magnitude — that struck Edmond on December 29 and January 1. The plaintiffs say they suffered damage from the earthquakes, and that the energy companies were “negligent, careless, and reckless” in their treatment of the earthquake risks surrounding wastewater injection.

                  “As a direct and proximate result of defendants’ negligence, plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer severe and permanent damage to their persons and property,” the lawsuit states. This damage includes “cracked and broken interior and exterior walls” and “movement of the foundations beneath their dwellings.” These damages have taken a toll on the residents psyches, too, causing “mental and emotional anguish, fear, and worry.”

                  Wastewater injection has been tied to increased earthquake risk before. The U.S. Geological Survey said in a report last year that many of the earthquakes that have peppered the Midwest since 2009 could be linked to oil and gas companies’ practice of injecting their wastewater deep underground. If wastewater is pumped into a fault, scientists think, it could cause the fault to slip, causing an earthquake. Researchers have linked wastewater injection to earthquakes in Texas and Ohio.

                  Oklahoma has seen a major uptick in earthquakes in recent years. From 1991 to 2008, Oklahoma experienced no more than three 3.0 magnitude or higher earthquakes every year. Then, in 2009, the state started to see an increase in earthquake activity. In 2014, Oklahoma was the most seismically active state in the lower 48 U.S. states, with 585 quakes. 2015 was even higher, with 857 quakes — more than all the lower 48 states combined.

                  http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/01/12/3738417/oklahoma-earthquake-residents-lawsuit/

      • ThrottleJockey

        No I recognize that and I’m okay with it. It’s a market solution. I don’t believe in privatize profits and socialize costs. So economic activities need to support their externalities.

  • pianomover

    As a California native who has constantly been told by mid-westerners that they could never live here because of the earthquakes all I have to say is “ha ha”.

    • Linnaeus

      Oklahoma is not Midwestern.

      • DrDick

        Nope. It is very much Western and part of the 19th century cattle culture.

      • pianomover
      • pianomover

        “That’s exactly what federal officials are telling Oklahomans and Kansans to do: Prepare for a big quake”

        I personally don’t know anyone from Oklahoma, but the Midwestern state of Kansas yes.

        • Linnaeus

          The vast, vast majority of the rest of the region looks pretty safe. :)

      • liberalrob

        OK is Midwestern now. It wasn’t back when the Mississippi River was the edge of “civilization”.

        • Linnaeus

          I don’t agree, but no need for a fight. I intended to gently chide pianomover in the same spirit with which she/he was chiding the gentlefolk of the Midwestern states. Apologies if I was a bit murky on that.

          • pianomover

            Chiding accepted.

  • This is just more NIMBYism. Nothing the free market can’t straighten out. I mean, if people were all that worried about earthquakes in Oklahoma, the’d just stop buying oil, right?

    • Bill Murray

      maybe we can get the poor people to move to the areas most likely to have an earthquake. That will ameliorate the problem … for the politicians

  • JustRuss

    Kansas, meanwhile, deemed quakes an imminent threat to the public and ordered steep cutbacks in waste disposal a year ago.

    New State Motto? Oklahoma: Even Kansas has more sense than we do!

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Stultitia Omnia Vincit

      • wjts

        Plus unum.

  • wengler

    I think the line taken by the oil companies is that it’s not fracking causing the earthquakes, it’s windmills.

  • tgchicago

    The first place I saw that map was in a Vox article which pointed out that the majority of the oil-extraction-related earthquake danger comes from methods other than fracking.

  • keta

    It seems new research has revealed that when discussing the negative impacts of fracking, one should look up, way up, as well as down.

    Bill McGibben:

    In February, Harvard researchers published an explosive paper in Geophysical Research Letters. Using satellite data and ground observations, they concluded that the nation as a whole is leaking methane in massive quantities. Between 2002 and 2014, the data showed that US methane emissions increased by more than 30 percent, accounting for 30 to 60 percent of an enormous spike in methane in the entire planet’s atmosphere.

    To the extent our leaders have cared about climate change, they’ve fixed on CO2. Partly as a result, coal-fired power plants have begun to close across the country. They’ve been replaced mostly with ones that burn natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane. Because burning natural gas releases significantly less carbon dioxide than burning coal, CO2 emissions have begun to trend slowly downward, allowing politicians to take a bow. But this new Harvard data, which comes on the heels of other aerial surveys showing big methane leakage, suggests that our new natural-gas infrastructure has been bleeding methane into the atmosphere in record quantities. And molecule for molecule, this unburned methane is much, much more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

    Nothing makes one more cynical that watching us all shit in our own beds.

    • Nothing makes one more cynical that watching us all shit in our own beds.

      Well, at least the Industrial Age has been one hell of a Spring Break!

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