How The Liars Do It: Dodging Responsibility for Injection Well-Induced Earthquakes

“People Are Fed Up With The Earthquakes”

Earthquakes At Benedictine HallEven in the bright red petro state known as Oklahoma, the citizens are growing weary of earthquakes caused by injection wells. Do you think the oil and gas boys paid for the damage to this building at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Okla? Nyet. A collection was taken up by students and faculty.

In 2010, CatastropheMap began reporting on a series of earthquake swarms in Guy, AR. Although geologists have been aware of the phenomenon for decades, this was one of the earliest incidents of human-induced seismic activity that managed to generate some local media coverage. The scenario was fairly clear cut: there had been virtually no earthquakes in this area of Arkansas until an oil and gas boom that began in 2010 was accompanied by the use of wastewater storage wells. It is a scientific fact that these wells are capable of shifting underground pressures, which changes the loads at fault interfaces. When they slip, there are earthquakes. This is not alarmist or conspiracy theory material. Any number of independent geologist confirm injection wells cause earthquakes and, as it turned out, have been causing them for decades.We went on to report similar patterns in Ohio, England, West Virginia, Colorado and Oklahoma. The pattern was virtually identical in every case:1. No history or virtually no history of earthquakes.
2. Opening of wastewater disposal wells when fracking activity comes to town.
3. A lot of earthquakesFor the complete story on these (and other types of) human-induced earthquakes, feel free to buy the CatMap e-book on the topic for a low low $3.99*Of course, even in places where the oil and gas industry dominates the economy and the culture**, some people get upset when the ground shakes all day and all night. In Arkansas, for example, citizens reported a dozen or more episodes a day. Most of the time they were small tremors, but not always. Increasingly, there was property damage and now, inevitably, lawsuits.This brings us to a story in the Dec 13 New York Times, about a new 4.5 magnitude quake in Oklahoma and the slowly growing initiative to tie waste wells to seismic activity. The pressure is on because the quakes seem to be getting more numerous and more violent, leaving serious property damage and angry citizens behind.

Of course, the last thing the oil and gas industry wants is government regulation because that interferes with plunder and profit. They have trade associations and spokes models who get paid a lot of money to a) deny that what is happening is happening b) claim that what is happening is not really that bad c) confuse the issue by leveraging the media’s sometimes irrational tendency to “tell both sides of the story”. Even when there isn’t another side.

The New York Times article provides a perfect example of how the operatives who work for special interests twist the truth, a process often known as lying. In this case, we would like to use the statement of Chad Warmington, president of the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association as quoted in the New York Times***

“We’ve been doing this for a long time and it hasn’t been an issue before.” said Chad in the story.

This statement is not true for a least two reasons and probably more. First, while the hydrofracking process is decades old, the newer technologies are on an exponentially greater scale. The amount of so called wastewater or brine generated by each well is millions of gallons and it has to be gotten rid of somehow. So the sheer quantity of wastewater being pumped into more and more deep injection wells has increased dramatically in the last decade, and so have the earthquakes. Furthermore, the drilling of new wells is happening in places that have never experienced oil and gas activities before, so Chad’s statement is disingenuous at best.

And the simple fact is that storage wells have been connected to earthquake swarms in Texas and California in incidents that date back to the nineties. In fact, earthquake swarms in various regions have been well documented for at least two decades, but the stories never really got any traction. When you put them all together, you end up with evidence that is entirely convincing…unless you have a team of attorneys paid to convince people that what is happening is not happening.

* Proceeds from the book go to feed the hungry children of CatMap Editorial Board members.
**For some reason, there seems to be an affinity between Christianity and hydrocarbon extraction.
***Because if you can’t believe the president of an Oil and Gas Association, who can you believe?

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