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Archives for February 2015

USGS Says Earthquake Increase is Not From Natural Causes

2011 earthquake

Oklahoma has been seeing a sharp increase in earthquake activity. In 2014, Oklahoma beat out California, for the most earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater, with 562 quakes compared to 180 in California.

This increase has Oklahoman’s wanting answers on the cause. In September of last year, Gov. Fallin created a seismic activity council to do just that. However, many fear that the council is bias due to the fact that it’s members are largely connected with the oil and gas industry.


Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been studying this issue and last week said that the “rise in seismic activity, especially in the central United States, is not the result of natural processes.”

Their findings show that the increase is due to a part of the hydraulic fracturing process.

“These modern extraction techniques result in large quantities of wastewater produced along with the oil and gas. The disposal of this wastewater by deep injection occasionally results in earthquakes that are large enough to be felt, and sometimes damaging. Deep injection of wastewater is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in detected earthquakes and the corresponding increase in seismic hazard in the central U.S. ” – U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

These findings are consistent with other studies done around the state.

Map Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS

The Green State of Oklahoma – 2015

Oklahoma

2015 is a new year that brings with it continued challenges for Oklahoma’s environmental issues. Let’s see how Oklahoma fared throughout 2014 on green issues facing the state*.

Waste & Recycling
According to the 2014 American Litter Scorecard, Oklahoma was ranked 40 out of 50, or one of worst and dirtiest states.  The scorecard is compiled once every three years. This is a slight improvement from the 2011 scorecard, which had Oklahoma ranked at #42.


Pollution
The American Lung Association ranks the most polluted cities in the US according to three different criteria: by the number of high ozone days, by yearly pollution, and by short term (24 hour) pollution. Several cities in Oklahoma made the pollution list.  The Tulsa, Muskogee, and Bartlesville area came in at 14 out of 25 cities for number of high ozone days. Oklahoma City and Shawnee came in at 19 out of 25. The overall ozone grade for both regions was F. On the bright side, Oklahoma/Shawnee and Tulsa/Muskogee/Bartlesville areas were both given a grade A  for metropolitan areas with short term pollution.

Oklahoma also currently ranks 17 out of 50 states for carbon dioxide emissions, and 24 out of 50 for number of annual miles driven (2012)**.

Water
According to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program), 18% of Oklahoma’s population has been exposed to contaminated water systems, as defined by the EPA.

Meanwhile, the drought situation in Oklahoma isn’t improving. 2015 will bring the state into its fifth year of drought across most of the state.

Energy
In 2013, Oklahoma ranked 5th in crude oil production, and is one of the highest producing natural gas states**. The state also ranks 4th for highest wind electricity generated.

Green Schools
Of the 1,803 public schools in Oklahoma, only 22 are registered active Oklahoma Green Schools.

Wildlife Conservation
In 2014, the Humane Society ranked Oklahoma 30th on animal protection laws.

24 animals and 2 plants are listed as either endangered or threatened in Oklahoma by the US Fish and Wildlife Services.

Although Oklahoma is doing some great green things – like being 4th in wind energy, improving its litter ranking, and receiving an A in two cities for short term pollution – Oklahoma still has much green work to do in 2015.

 

Note
*When available, comparisons were made with previous years and other states.
**This is the most recent data available.
Photo Credit- Okiefromokla

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles State After Injection Well Shutdown

Oklahoma Earthquakes

Earthquakes in Oklahoma as of 11:00 a.m. on Thursday.

A 4.3 magnitude earthquake was reported near Cherokee at 9:08 a.m. on Thursday. This comes after the Oklahoma Corporation Commission directed SandRidge Energy to shut down an injection well in Alfalfa County on Tuesday.

The well was shut down due to a magnitude 4.1 earthquake recorded in the area on Friday. It’s the second active wastewater injection well to be shut down since 2003, when a new monitoring system was put into place.

Oklahoma’s earthquakes are continuing to increase. In 2011 Oklahoma experienced the largest earthquake in state history, magnitude 5.7. That year there were 63 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater.


2012 was a bit quieter with 34 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater. However, in 2013 earthquakes increased again with 106 of magnitude 3 or greater. And in 2014 the number jumped to 567 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater.

While studies continue to link the increase in earthquakes to injection wells, the state has been slow to address the issue. The oil and gas industry accounts for a third of the state’s economy and one in five jobs, making state officials slow to enact more regulations on the industry.

In September of last year Gov. Fallin created a seismic activity council to study the issue. However, some have criticized the council because they believe the oil and natural gas industry is too heavily represented.

“I applaud the governor for proposing the council, but its membership needs to be expanded to include someone other than just people beholden to the oil and gas industry,” . Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant said. –read more

How Oklahoma handles the earthquake increase and the oil and natural gas industry could also come from the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The state’s highest court is set to decide if two oil companies can be held liable for injuries a woman received from the 2011 5.7 magnitude earthquake.

Map Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS