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Fracking And Earthquakes In Middle America47:21
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The earthquakes of Oklahoma. There’s a sharp increase. Big oil, lots of water, pressure, fracking. We’ll look at what lies beneath.

In this file photo, Chad Devereaux works to clear up bricks that fell from three sides of his in-laws' home in Sparks, Okla., Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, after two earthquakes hit the area in less than 24 hours. (AP)
In this file photo, Chad Devereaux works to clear up bricks that fell from three sides of his in-laws' home in Sparks, Okla., Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, after two earthquakes hit the area in less than 24 hours. (AP)

Until 2008, the state of Oklahoma averaged one or two earthquakes magnitude 3.0 or greater a year. Then the lid blew off those numbers.  Rising year by year. To 20. Then 42. Then hundreds. Last year, Oklahoma had 585 earthquakes that size. This year, it’s on track for more than 700. Walls shake. Bricks fall. It’s nerve-wracking. And, say experts, it’s all about how the state’s energy companies go after oil and gas. And huge volumes of water being pumped deep in the earth. Now the earth is moving. This hour On Point: the earthquakes of Oklahoma.
-- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Rivka Galchen, contributor at the New Yorker. Novelist and short-story author.

Katie Keranen, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University.

AJ Ferate, vice president of regulatory affairs with the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. (@AJFerate)

Angela Spotts, activist and co-founder of Stop Fracking Payne County. (@spottsthoughts)

From Tom’s Reading List

New Yorker: Weather Underground — "The first case of earthquakes caused by fluid injection came in the nineteen-sixties. Engineers at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a chemical-weapons manufacturing center near Commerce City, Colorado, disposed of waste fluids by injecting them down a twelve-thousand-foot well. More than a thousand earthquakes resulted, several of magnitudes close to 5.0."

New York Times: As Quakes Rattle Oklahoma, Fingers Point to Oil and Gas Industry — "More than five years after the quakes began a sharp and steady increase, the strongest action by the Republican governor, Mary Fallin, has been to name a council to exchange information about the tremors. The group meets in secret, and has no mandate to issue recommendations. The State Legislature is not considering any earthquake legislation. But both houses passed bills this year barring local officials from regulating oil and gas wells in their jurisdictions."

Science: Sharp increase in central Oklahoma seismicity since 2008 induced by massive wastewater injection — "Unconventional oil and gas production provides a rapidly growing energy source; however, high-production states in the United States, such as Oklahoma, face sharply rising numbers of earthquakes. Subsurface pressure data required to unequivocally link earthquakes to wastewater injection are rarely accessible. Here we use seismicity and hydrogeological models to show that fluid migration from high-rate disposal wells in Oklahoma is potentially responsible for the largest swarm."

This program aired on April 8, 2015.

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