Oklahoma Knew Fracking Was Causing The Quakes—Inaction Was ‘Ingrained’

This week I did an extensive report about what federal, state and local governments are being forced to contend with as earthquakes from fracking increase across Oklahoma. Last week, President Barack Obama signed an executive order mandating that federal buildings comply with increased standards for securing buildings and facilities to withstand the impact of an increased frequency and severity of earthquakes. The administration didn’t attribute the quakes to anything, they just want structures to have their ducks in a row.

But, it turns out there’s another major piece of this story: while all of this has been going on since 2009, as Oklahoma has increased its fracking, seismologists at state agencies were promoting “a culture of hesitation and reluctance to act on science suggesting the state’s earthquake boom was linked to oil and gas activities,” according to NPR.

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An op-ed in the Huffington Post Thursday, from Pamela Worth at the Union of Concerned Scientists, revealed that there was mounting evidence that injection wells on fault lines were a bad idea, but it didn’t matter.

Amberlee Darold who used to be a research seismologist at the Oklahoma Geological Survey and now works for the U.S. Geological Survey in the Pacific Northwest told Worth she was shocked by the silence. “When I first got there, it did feel like people were trying to–,” she trails off. “Not lie, but they were trying to soften. I had the feeling they were trying to protect something.” She explained:

We were persuaded to not be so open when giving public presentations or speaking to the media. We would get reprimanded by the director, and/or the dean, if an article came out that mentioned fracking or wastewater management in conjunction with earthquakes.

She went on to explain that just last year, over six years after the quakes began, she was asked to co-author a statement blaming the injection wells for the quakes. She said that she was relieved it was finally becoming known what the cause was so some action could be taken. Even though it’s late in the game, anything is positive, but it’s a little bit too late. Damage has already been done and scientists don’t know if it is too much. We might suffer from quakes forever. It could even become an excuse for the frackers to justify continuing the practice. If the damage has already been done, does that mean they should just keep going because they can’t make it any worse? Of course, it doesn’t. Because it can always get worse.

“I still have faith that they’ll continue working together to come up with a solution, with the community in mind,” Darold says. “Industry is so important to the state–but at the same time, so are your citizens.”

Featured image via Pixabay

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