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Fracking crackdown reduces Oklahoma earthquakes by 25 percent


Fracking

(NaturalNews) Since 2009, the state of Oklahoma has experienced a drastic increase in earthquakes. The state's yearly average of reported earthquakes in 2009 was a mere 20 per year. In 2015, that average spiked to a shocking two per day.

While environmentalists have had their suspicions for a while, it wasn't until recently that scientific evidence emerged directly linking Oklahoma's increase in earthquakes to an "81 percent jump ... in wastewater volumes" injected back into the ground as a result of excessive fracking from 2009 to 2014.

According to EcoWatch, "Scientists concluded in April 2015 that the injection of wastewater byproducts into deep underground disposal wells from fracking operations have triggered the near-daily quakes."

Oklahoma state government issues voluntary fracking regulations

After the state of Oklahoma experienced a 5.1 magnitude earthquake in February of this year (the third largest in state history), Oklahoma state government finally took action to address the issue.

The state issued a series of voluntary fracking regulations for Oklahoma's oil and gas companies, calling for a 40 percent reduction in daily wastewater production in the northwest regions of the state. Covering a span of 5,200 square miles, and affecting over 240 different oil wells, the regulations aimed to combat both immediate and future concerns with the state's increased seismic activity.

Tim Baker, director of the OCC's Oil and Gas Conservation Division, said: "This plan is aimed not only at taking further action in response to past activity, but also to get out ahead of it and hopefully prevent new areas from being involved."

As a result of the regulations, Oklahoma has experienced a 25 percent decrease in earthquakes in the past 12 months. While this evidence bodes well for the immediate safety of Oklahoma and its citizens, many believe that the voluntary regulations may not be enough in the long run.

Oklahoma needs statewide mandatory fracking regulations

"I am glad to see the [Oklahoma] Corporation Commission act to implement a regional wastewater reduction plan, but I feel like we are about three years late to the party," state Rep. Cory Williams told Inside Climate News. Instead, Williams proposed that Oklahoma implement a mandatory "statewide moratorium on oil-and-gas wastewater disposal."

Williams' concerns arose from a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club and Public Justice against three of the state's largest oil companies, New Dominion, Chesapeake Operating and Devon Energy, who all refused to comply with the state's voluntary regulatory program.

Richard Webster, Public Justice attorney, commented on the issue claiming, "The polluters know very well that their activities will trigger earthquakes and yet they continue to inject large volumes of waste with impunity despite that knowledge."

In the lawsuit, Public Justice and Sierra Club accuse the three companies of violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and demand that they "reduce immediately and substantially, the amounts of production waste they are injecting into the ground." Additionally, the lawsuit requests that the state government make oil companies responsible for reinforcing structures vulnerable to earthquake damage, and the establishment of an independent earthquake monitoring and prediction center.

Certain Oklahoma lawmakers have jumped on board in favor of the lawsuit. Cory Williams, Oklahoma Democratic state lawmaker, is in support of issuing mandatory moratoriums, and even suggested the state "create financial incentives for companies to find safer ways to dispose of wastewater."

While the voluntary regulations issued in February are largely responsible for the state's 25 percent decrease in earthquakes over the past 12 months, the regulations only cover portions of the northwestern part of the state."The really interesting thing about Fairview is it's a really long way away from really large wells," Jeremy Boak, director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey reported.

While a mandatory statewide moratorium seems to be some distance away, at least there are groups taking action to push the movement in the right direction. Home of the second largest concentration of oil and gas activity in the United States, Oklahoma cannot afford to ignore its fracking problem any further. Oklahoma's oil industries and state government need to find a long-term solution to this problem, or else the state's largest source of economic activity could shake the state beyond repair.

Sources:

LATimes.com

EcoWatch.com

InterFaxEnergy.com

InsideClimateNews.org

Science.NaturalNews.com

OKStateChamber.com[PDF]

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