A recent NYT article caught my eye and made me wonder, what can an individual or business do when faced with this type of escalating risk? Oklahoma state officials called the thousands of earthquakes including a 5.6 tremor that was Oklahoma’s largest ever (November 5, 2011), “an act of nature, and it was nobody’s fault.” This is even after a March 2014 study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research concluded that wastewater injection caused a cascade of small earthquakes that triggered the quake.
Many scientists disagree. They say those quakes, and thousands of others before and since, are mainly the work of humans, caused by wells used to bury vast amounts of wastewater from oil and gas exploration deep in the earth near fault zones. And they warn that continuing to entomb such huge quantities risks more dangerous tremors — if not here, then elsewhere in the state’s sprawling well fields.
In a state where oil and gas are king, don’t expect much to happen. Elected leaders have been slow to address the problem and regulators lack the money, work force and legal authority to fully address the threats. For example, after more than five years of a steady increase in earthquakes, the strongest action by the Republican governor, Mary Fallin, has been to name a council to exchange information about the tremors. The group meets in secret, and has no mandate to issue recommendations.
The State Legislature is not considering any earthquake legislation. But both houses passed bills this year barring local officials from regulating oil and gas wells in their jurisdictions.
What are citizens and businesses to do?