I spent several days in Oklahoma where I attended an earthquake town hall meeting, an earthquake hearing and did some sightseeing. Earthquakes caused by fracking activities are also called frackquakes, which causes the industry heartburn. I will swap out the two terms in this post.
This picture shows an Oklahoma energy source that does not cause frackquakes. Wind energy is not without impacts but those are minor by comparison to fracking. While I hate that any birds are killed by industry, the fossil fuel industry kills far more birds than wind energy. Some people complain of vibrations and noise and some hate the way they look. I could sit on the porch and watch them for hours.
Frackquake Town Hall Meeting
Oklahoma Representative Lewis Moore held a town hall meeting in Edmond on Thursday. That was brave considering he voted for the Oklahoma fracking ban ban bill, SB 809, a vote for which he took some heat during the meeting.
According to media reports, attendance at the town hall was more than 300 (see video) and was standing room only (See video in which Moore uses the unfortunate analogy of using a sledge hammer on a thumb tack.)
Representative Moore suggested following California’s example and using the wastewater to irrigate vegetables. This idea was not popular with the Okies in the crowd. Next he suggested shipping the wastewater to Texas. This idea was not popular with the Texans in the crowd.
There were several attorneys present and people lined up to speak with them. Scott Pointer has a website: stopthequakes.com and has filed several lawsuits. He has an expert who can determine if damage was caused by earthquakes. Mark Wilson, markwilsonlaw.com, will analyze your insurance for free to determine if you have earthquake coverage and help you if your insurance has denied coverage.
There was a builder present who spoke about updating the building codes which would not help anyone in the room on Thursday night.
There was an insurance representative who spoke about coverage but someone in the audience noted that the speaker’s company had only paid one earthquake damage claim.
Representative Richard Morrissette said the legislature meets starting February 1st. “We can do something quickly” he said. He went on to say that by February 6th the lawmakers could sign a bill into law placing a moratorium on injecting wastewater in Oklahoma.
Buildings in Oklahoma and Texas are built to withstand wind not earthquakes. Many people talked about fears their homes would fall in on them, that their children’s schools would fall in and that hospitals wouldn’t withstand the catastrophic frackquake geologists are predicting if injection continues.
Several parents said children are so fearful they now sleep with their parents.
Residents called for a rapid conversion to wind and solar energy.
I tweeted two statements that illustrate how angry these Okies are:
— TXsharon (@TXsharon) January 14, 2016
— TXsharon (@TXsharon) January 14, 2016
Oklahoma Earthquake Hearing
Morrissette said the solution must be science and community based.
Dr. Todd Halihan ,Hydro geophysicist, OSU, started the hearing off with an informative, straight-talk presentation. His presentation starts about at about 12 minutes and I recommend listening. Here are some of my notes:
- No neutral rep in oil & gas like there is in airline industry, which makes it hard to do science.
- OK has largest earthquake increase in known history and science.
- Need investment in science to decrease uncertainty.
- The lake getting full did not generate 904 earthquakes last year. Large, deep reservoirs can generate earthquakes, not a lake.
- Earthquakes move away from injection wells over time. That’s how the physics works. Overtime the earthquakes will keep moving further and further away from the injection well that is generating them.
- Cushing oil storage facility has a fault right underneath it. Possible to experience something similar to Prague quake (5.6M).
- Key Point: If you are talking about a 4.8, in CA a 4.8 had light shaking on the Mercalli scale and nobody really cared too much. California doesn’t feel a 4 the same way we do. The recent 4.8 in OK categorized two Mercalli indexes higher and came out as STRONG. The number does not equal the sensation at the surface. Reporting by the public of what they felt is quite useful. Here public can feel 2s and most Californian’s can’t. See Mercalli vs Richter scale.
- No school will hold an earthquake drill to teach kids to climb under the desk, hold on and wait, not run, not get out of the building. I cannot convince school districts to do this because either they don’t consider any hazard to exist or they are afraid of scaring children. Shakeout.org has instructions as a school administrator on to how to run one of these exercises.
- Recycling wastewater creates huge amount of brine waste and is prohibitively expensive.
— TXsharon (@TXsharon) January 15, 2016
The insurance commissioner spoke but I have only a few notes on that. If you have questions, call 1-800-522-0071. They are monitoring complaints against insurance companies.
People are concerned about explosions if earthquakes loosen gas pipes under their homes. The insurance commissioner said these explosions are covered by homeowners’ insurance. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t know how much comfort that brings into the house exploding conversation.
Oklahoma resident asked why homeowners should pay for insurance. “Why can’t those responsible pay?” Applause erupts. Several repeated different versions of this question.
Too many problems with insurance to list them all.
- There were many strong calls for policy makers to take action to protect the public from frackquakes caused by the oil and gas industry.
- Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin in not at all popular with these folks.
- Morrissette asked:
— TXsharon (@TXsharon) January 15, 2016
- Morrissette also called out the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for not acting when emergency action is written in the statute. He read the exact part of the law.
- One woman has over $75k damage to her home which is approaching uninhabitable. Some people are living in trailers behind their homes.
- Speaker asks if stopping injection will make the earthquakes worse. No one in the room has seen any science to support that. Industry geologist steps up to say stopping injection will not make earthquakes worse.
- Stopping 5 – 6% of OK production will stop earthquake damage experienced by 20% of population. ~Industry geologist
- Stay out of Mississippi Lime that “throws out” huge amount of water. ~Industry geologist
- 64 million bbls of oil in storage in Cushing. Frackquake there could cause worldwide catastrophe. ~Industry geologist
- Industry lacks common sense to handle earthquake problem. Made bet with devil that catastrophe will not happen. ~Industry geologist
- “Great balls of fire, they are saying it won’t happen but you are hearing from scientists” who warn – bigger earthquakes. ~Industry geologist
- Resident lived through 40 earthquakes in one night near Logan, OK.
- Resident shows bag of mortar she collected from inside of her home. “Afraid to be in my own home.”
The Cushing storage tanks and pipelines span many miles. I have pictures but a map better depicts the size.
On October 10, 2015, there was a M4.5 earthquake in Cushing. News said there was no major damage but this building came down and many others were damaged.
Now the massive oil stockpile faces an emerging threat: earthquakes. In the past month, a flurry of quakes have hit within a few miles of Cushing, rattling the town and its massive tanks. According to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, more than a dozen quakes have registered 3.0 or higher on the Richter scale within a few miles of Cushing since mid-September. The biggest, registering at 4.5, hit about three miles away on Oct. 10.
The Canadian company, Enbridge, checked the tanks after the October 10th earthquake but has not updated it’s emergency or disaster plans.
In an interview with Independent, Dr. Riki Ott, who has seen many oil related disasters, had this to say:
“It has all of the ingredients for a major disaster. Government and industry officials are misleading the public and hardly anyone knows about it.”
“I see the same lack of understanding of risk and the same official denial of reality as I did before the Exxon Valdez. I have seen all of the signs that there is a major event coming to Cushing and nobody is ready for it.”
In addition to the above ground storage tanks, Cushing is the convergence of some large pipelines.
There are no good solutions for fracking wastewater
A moratorium on injection will not solve the problem of what to do with the wastewater. The current wells will continue to produce wastewater that will need to go someplace. Please see The Fracking Big Gulp for some hard to swallow information on alternatives to injection.
The best solution is to step away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
For grassroots groups in frackquake zones contact: