Oklahoma is known for many things including its 50 state parks, the Land Rush of 1889, and the world record for the largest pecan pie ever made. However, within the last seven years the state has become known as the small earthquake capital of the world experiencing two to three earthquakes every single day, according to scientists.
Between the years 2000-2008, Oklahoma experienced zero earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or higher. Between the years 2015-2016, the state experienced 567 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or higher, according to a United States Geological Survey.
What’s changed between the year 2008 and 2015 is the increase in oil and gas production. Specifically, the increase in hydraulic fracturing and the disposal of fracking wastewater.
Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting high volumes of water into the earth’s crust in order to push oil out. Watch the video below to see this process presented in a visual way.
For every one barrel of oil that is produced from this process, there are 10-15 barrels of wastewater created. This wastewater is then being disposed of into very deep sedimentary rock, and over time the increasing volume of fluid creates a build in pressure, ultimately leading to earthquakes.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the injection of wastewater at depths can cause earthquakes because, “injecting large volumes of water into the deep sedimentary formations raises the pore pressure over large areas that can induce earthquakes.”
This process of extracting oil has caused an unprecedented rise in earthquakes throughout the United States Midwest. However, that is not its only environmental impact.
According to Alternet, a news service which says its mission is to inspire citizen action and advocacy on the environment as well as social issues, the United States has 1.1 million active gas wells. In order to run these fracking sites, 72 trillion gallons of water and 360 billion gallons of chemicals are needed.
To put this into perspective, that amount of water could sustain nearly 2,400,000,000 people for their entire lives assuming they drink a gallon a day.
The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management has “just finished an overhaul of rules for oil and gas leasing on federal lands to measure production accurately for royalties and to protect aquifers from fracking,” according to the Society for Environmental Journalists. The BLM published a rule in March 2015 to ensure that when hydraulic fracturing takes place “steps are taken to ensure well bore integrity, proper waste water management, and greater transparency about the process, including information about the composition of fracturing fluids.”
Some fear the BLM’s rules however may be overrun by a Trump Presidency.
According to a CNBC article, Trump says he wants to increase the United State’s oil, natural gas, and coal production and plans to do this by “rolling back regulations” such as the BLM’s new rules, and increase drilling on federal lands.
According to Donald Trump’s website, his energy plan includes
- Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.
- Open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits.
Trump’s plan’s to increase oil and gas production go hand in hand with the increase in hydraulic fracking.
According to Yale Climate Connections, an increase in fracking can lead to questionable air quality, negative health impacts, contaminated drinking water, and more earthquakes throughout the United States.
The non partisan news source admits that while the practice does have some positive attributes like increased oil production rates and increased jobs, it is not a sustainable energy production method.
(Analysis and Commentary by Rachel Harris)