Shaking in the U.S.A: Oklahoma the new earthquake capitol Written by: Meghan Henoumont

Shaking in the U.S.A: Oklahoma the new earthquake capitol


Written by: Meghan Henoumont


When you hear the word Oklahoma, the images that tend to come to mind are of cows grazing in open flat fields, dusty homesteads that echo our country’s wild west history, land that rolls on for as far as the eye can see. That decades-old perception of Oklahoma is quickly being replaced. As of 2015, Oklahoma officially experienced more earthquakes than anywhere in the Untied States and some experts say in the world.

Before 2008, Oklahoma experienced one or two magnitude four earthquakes per decade. Since 2008 that number has drastically and quickly increased. According to the Oklahoma Office of the Secretary of Energy and Environment, “…The current rate of earthquakes is approximately 600 times the historical averages…” In 2015 Oklahoma had 907 quakes, about two a day, and in  first two weeks of 2016 Oklahoma had a total of 82 earthquakes.

The reason for the sudden sharp increase in seismic activity according to Oklahoma Governments officials is wastewater disposal from hydraulic fracking, who say, “We know that the recent rise in earthquakes cannot be entirely attributed to natural causes…seismologists have documented the relationship between waste water disposal and triggered seismic activity.”

Stanford geophysicists confirmed the waste water theory in a recent study published in June of last year. According to the study the injection of waste water deep into the earth’s crust, a standard practice in fracking, is indeed the triggering mechanism responsible for the earthquakes in Oklahoma. Man-made or induced earthquakes have become more and more common as fracking wastewater disposal continues to rise along with the world’s consumption of oil.

Some citizens are taking matters into their own hands, by filing a lawsuit against 12 fracking companies for earthquake damage. The lawsuit was filed in January by 14 citizens of Edmond, Oklahoma who claim that these energy companies’ saltwater disposal wells contributed to a string of earthquakes that hit central Oklahoma earlier this year.

Lawsuits against fracking companies are nothing new and are often dismissed before they ever go to trial. Just last year on December 23 the town of Abita Springs, in St. Tammany Parish, lost its suit against the Army Corps of engineers and Helios Oil & Gas Co.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier ruled in favor of Helios Oil & Gas Co. to use a wetlands permit granted by the Corps in June to drill a vertical well on land north of Interstate 12. Abita Springs alleged in the suit that the corps did not follow federal regulations when issuing the permit and refused the town’s request for a public hearing.

Many residents of St. Tammany Parish oppose the new well because of environmental concerns. The drilling project will require filling around three acres of wetlands. St. Tammany Parish appealed the decision to the 1st Circuit, which halts the project until a decision can be reached. Concerned citizens in Mandeville have begun an online petition to raise awareness in surrounding communities about the environmental and health dangers that come with fracking.

Map courtesy of: The USGS Earthquake Hazard Program.

Map courtesy of: The USGS Earthquake Hazard Program.


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