Usually I would caution myself against assuming that correlation causes causation. But who can look at my home state and not have grave suspicions about the connection between fracking and earthquakes? C’mon, Oklahoma. 564 quakes in one year?
Oklahoma had a fivefold surge in earthquakes last year, making it by far the most seismically active state in the Lower 48.
The Sooner State was shaken by 564 quakes of magnitude 3 and larger, compared with only 100 in 2013, according to an EnergyWire analysis of federal earthquake data. California, which is twice the size of Oklahoma, had fewer than half as many quakes.
To keep this in perspective, that’s more than twice the number of earthquakes we Californians had. Oklahoma has now become the number one state for earthquakes, outside of only Alaska (which dwarfs its size and lies along a big fault line or two–seismologists tend to treat it as a whole ‘nuther country).
And this is a total historical anomaly, too. The earthquakes only came along when the fracking did:
From 1975 to 2008, Oklahoma averaged one to three quakes of magnitude 3 or greater a year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Then the number began to rise. There were 20 such quakes in 2009.
What seems weird on the “surface” of it (I think that counts as a pun?) is that Oklahomans really don’t give a shit. Even my wacky liberal friends back in Tulsa seem to find it more a comedy than a tragedy.
And why be glum? The damage from all these earthquakes has been basically cracks in the wall: even the worst one, the 5.7 earthquake that hit Prague, Oklahoma, only injured two people, killed no one, and rattled a couple hundred homes. That’s pretty namby-pamby compared to what happens in the natural disasters Oklahomans are used to seeing every year, tornadoes. Have you ever lived through a tornado? Oh my GOD! They make power lines shoot balls of fire down your street, and plow school buses through churches like a fucking Tom Cruise alien movie.
Plus if you don’t think of the long-term damage all that fracking’s toxins and waste water are gonna do to the state (and to the world, when all that gas eventually gets emitted into the atmosphere), it’s a pretty sweet tradeoff: for the first time since the 70s, Oklahoma is an exporter of valuable fuel resources. For the price of a couple crumbling sidewalks, rural towns like Prague, Oklahoma, can get their streets paved and their citizens employed. Bear in mind, one in six people in Oklahoma works in the industry, and that number will only be growing if fracking continues to be seen as, at worst, a minor problem with major benefits.
But that may all change “sooner” than people think (see? I did it again). The increase in the number earthquakes increases the chance of another big one, or bigger one, and the change between 2013 and 2014 was 564%! Plus there’s a theory that earthquakes in Kansas are being caused by Oklahoma fracking, meaning that Oklahomans aren’t just sinning at home anymore. There’s greater, and wider impact, and the big one could be coming any day, to towns that don’t know the meaning of “retrofitting” or “stand in the doorway.”
My prediction is this: in the next few years, very soon, Oklahoma WILL get a giant earthquake. People WILL die. But the deniers will shout loudest, and the grave gravy-train will keep on chugging.
UPDATE: Damn, I was almost proven right within 24 hours! No one got hurt, and I’m a state away, but North Texas just got bludgeoned with some very mysterious and damage-inducing earthquakes, all in a row:
“This is the largest earthquake in Irving since the ’70s. That’s as far back as our catalog goes,” said USGS geophysicist Jessica Turner. “There hasn’t been anything like this at all, so it’s new.”