StateImpact’s Earthquake Research Reading List


Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Scientists say oil and gas activity is likely responsible for much of the earthquake activity that has surged in Oklahoma since 2009.

Seismologists, regulators, lawmakers, oil industry experts and everyday Oklahomans trying to understand the earthquake phenomenon — known as “induced seismicity” — face two seemingly contradictory observations: Oklahoma has a long history of oil and gas production, and the recent period of increased earthquake activity is comparatively short. Continue Reading

City Officials Reconsider Drilling Ordinances as Anti-Frack Ban Legislation Moves Forward

Stillwater resident Tammy Mix stands in front of an oil and gas well behind her house.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Stillwater resident Tammy Mix stands in front of an oil and gas well behind her house.

The Oklahoma House and Senate have advanced legislation to prevent cities, towns and counties from banning fracking and other oil and gas activities.

At least one of the bills will likely end up on the governor’s desk, but even in its unsigned, non-finalized form, the legislation is affecting local regulation.

Continue Reading

Why Midwest City Might Fight Norman’s Plan to Recycle Treated Wastewater

Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske

With concern over drought at a high point and plans to get water from southeast Oklahoma falling through, the City of Norman decided in 2014 to pursue a plan to clean water that has been used by customers and return it to Lake Thunderbird — the city’s main water source — to be used again.

There’s a growing trend toward wastewater reuse to combat drought and conserve water sources for the future, but not everyone is comfortable with the idea of drinking what is, in essence, retreated toilet water. And Norman isn’t the only city that relies on Lake Thunderbird for its drinking water. Continue Reading

“Can This Oil Baron’s Company Withstand Another Quake?”

Fascinating read by Bloomberg’s Benjamin Elgin and Matthew Phillips, who delve deep into the operations and personalities at New Dominion, a Tulsa disposal well operator that’s been named in earthquake-related lawsuits and scientific papers.

Few companies have more at stake than New Dominion. A July 2014 study published in Science found that four high-volume disposal wells owned by New Dominion on the outskirts of Oklahoma City may have accounted for 20 percent of all seismic activity in the central U.S. from 2008 to 2013. Two victims of the 5.7 quake from 2011 have sued New Dominion for damages; the state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Sandra Ladra, a 64-year-old resident of Prague, who sued after her stone chimney crumbled during the quake, sending rocks crashing down on her legs. Should the court establish a precedent where New Dominion and companies like it can be held liable for earthquake damage, the fallout could be severe.

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As Oklahoma Agency Pointed to Natural Causes, Staff Suspected Quakes Were Linked to Oil

The Oklahoma Geological Survey on April 21 acknowledged Oklahoma’s ongoing earthquake surge is “very likely” triggered by wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry, a formal recognition that comes after years of scientific research that reached similar conclusions.

For years, the OGS’s formal public position was that Oklahoma’s earthquakes were likely natural. At the same time, scientists at the agency suspected as early as 2007 that oil and gas activity was triggering quakes, new email records obtained by EnergyWire’s Mike Sorgahan show:

Survey leaders, though, decided against going public with a theory that might be viewed as hostile to the state’s most prominent industry, according to interviews and agency emails obtained by EnergyWire under Oklahoma’s Open Records Act. Continue Reading

“Bill Giving Oklahoma Attorney General Say In Clean Power Plan Response Passes House”

Oklahoma lawmakers are being forced to take sides on President Obama’s Clean Power Plan in the form of their votes on Senate Bill 676, which gives Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt a larger role in developing the state’s plan to comply with the new rules.

Echols warned his House colleagues that voting against the bill would be an endorsement of the EPA’s plan, which he called an overreach from a “rogue agency.”

“This vote will decide where you stand on EPA overreach,” Echols said.

Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, questioned why the bill was needed when Pruitt already has been active in fighting other EPA rules.

“Why do we need this extra step, this extra way for him to challenge this?” Virgin said.

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Oklahoma House Advances Anti-Frack Ban Bill

Drilling rig near northwest Oklahoma City.

katsrcool / Flickr

Drilling rig near northwest Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma House on Wednesday voted 64-32 in approving legislation that would prevent officials in towns, cities and counties from banning oil and gas drilling and related production.

Senate Bill 809 now returns to the Senate for consideration. The measure, authored by Senate Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, is one of several bills lawmakers proposed during the 2015 legislative session to limit municipal authority over the oil and gas industry. Continue Reading

“Oklahomans Feel Way More Earthquakes Than Californians; Now They Know Why”

From our reporting on NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’: “State officials have been slow to formally link the industry to the earthquakes. The oil and gas industry is one of the largest economic drivers in Oklahoma — sales tax revenues from drilling and associated business allowed Medford to build a new community pool, among other projects.”

This morning, the U.S. Geological Survey will issue its first comprehensive assessment of the hazard posed by earthquakes linked to oil and gas drilling. In the preliminary report, the survey details oil and gas-related quakes in eight states. The earthquake surge is strongest in Oklahoma, where the state government has formally acknowledged the link for the first time earlier this week.

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