Earthquakes in Oklahoma and Colorado Prompt Different Approaches

Oklahoma Panhandle

Earthquakes in Oklahoma and Colorado prompt different approaches from state authorities following reports of alarming surges in seismic activities in both states.

Earthquakes in Oklahoma and Colorado prompt different approaches from state authorities following reports of alarming surges in seismic activities in both states.

In the past week, Oklahoma has registered two strong earthquakes. One of them was registered to be a 4.8 magnitude earthquake. And this is just the beginning of 2016. The steady surge of seismic activity in both states is linked by scientific reports to an intensification of oil and gas drilling operations, part of the larger energy industry booming in both states.

However, the earthquakes in Oklahoma and Colorado prompt different approaches and regulations for the energy industries and drilling operations. The need to adopt stricter regulations arises against the background of seismic activity intensifying over the past seven years. The increased frequency of earthquakes in Oklahoma has been linked to saltwater disposal.

Saltwater is a byproduct of oil and gas drilling operations. This is disposed in deep wells around the sites of the drilling operations. Horizontal drilling as well as hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) have made Oklahoma a sweet spot for oil companies.   

To address the issue and residents’ concerns, Oklahoma’s State Representative Richard Morrissette (Democrat) asked to host a public forum on Friday at the Capitol. Several points of debate are expected to be tackled. The most prominent surrounds the issue of halting the practice of injection wells.

On Wednesday, two earthquakes were registered in Oklahoma, of 4.7 and 4.8 magnitude. During a 13-hour timeframe, another 22 smaller scale tremors were registered. While in 2014 the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) registered 585 earthquakes in Oklahoma, the same governmental agency recorded 842 earthquakes in the state in 2015.

According to George Choy with the National Earthquake Information Center,

“That’s almost a millennium’s worth of earthquakes in two years. When you see that you suspect something is going on”.

Something is indeed going on, beyond the natural fault lines existing in both states. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the surge in seismic activity is a clear output of oil and gas drilling operations. Disposing of saltwater resulted from the drilling process in injection wells dug deep underground destabilizes the fault lines.

Injecting chemicals mixed with sand and water during the fracking operations isn’t helping to reduce the number of earthquakes shaking up the states. While the U.S. Geological Survey report comprised lengthy scientific data and arguments to support the link between the surge in earthquake numbers and oil and gas drilling operations, it fell short on providing policy recommendations to tackle the alarming issue.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia

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