As Earthquake Swarms Double In Oklahoma, We Review The Oil Company Progression of Lies

“I don’t think they really care about the people and their homes, the land, all of that. I don’t think they care as long as they make their money.”

Earthquake SwarmsThis time around, the lawyers are going to get some justice done.

[For a deeper look, read CatMap’s 2013 e-book: Human Induced EarthquakesDirect Link to Amazon]

When we first covered the earthquake the swarms in Arkansas in 2010, many of our readers thought we were either joking or crazy (as if). The idea that human activities can cause seismic activity seemed unbelievable to most people. But as the center of the country is rocked by more quakes and larger quakes caused by high pressure deep waste water disposal wells – generated by the oil and gas industry – the story is finally hitting the main stream media. Even in the Wall Street Journal.

At present, the epicenter of the earthquake story is in Oklahoma, although the same story has repeated itself in Arkansas, Texas, Ohio and West Virginia in almost identical fashion. The common elements in the narrative are these:

  • The earthquakes begin occurring in places where there had previously been either no seismic activity or very little
  • The earthquakes begin occurring when fracking waste water disposal wells opened in the area.

No sane person believes that there is no relationship between these two events.
Prior to 2008, Oklahoma averaged about three quakes over 3.0 per year. In 2014, there have already been 211 quakes the first half of the year. From 1978 to 2008, Oklahoma recorded two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or larger a year. In 2011, Oklahoma suffered its biggest recorded quake in the town of Prague. The 5.6 magnitude event damaged dozens of homes and businesses.

There have been a series of studies by geologists and – granted they are not working for an oil company or trade association – the conclusions are unanimous. Deep waste water disposal wells increase seismic activity. The latest study to be released is from Cornell University, and the results are even more convincing than previous research.

As the cause and effect scenario has slowly become more undeniable over the past 5 years, Oil and Gas interests have begun the usual dance of denial. In what amounts to a series of fall back positions, pr flacks and lawyers work overtime to obscure the truth and delay any possible regulatory response, as unlikely as that might be.

These are people who get well paid to lie. And the essence of a good, corporate lie is that it sound not like a lie, or contain enough truth that the undiscerning listener missing the giant fib underlayment. So in response to the Cornell research, we get responses such as this gem from OIPA President Mike Terry.

“A rush to judgment based on one researcher’s findings provides no clear understanding of the causes,” he said. Except that Mr. Terry knows there have now been dozens of studies released. They just don’t get the same publicity as the World Cup. Some of the most compelling research is from U.S. Geological Survey. When the agency analyzed data from 1970 onward, the USGS found that the increase in seismicity coincided with the injection of wastewater in locations such as Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Ohio and Oklahoma. It’s hard to imagine Mr. Terry is unaware of that data and that’s why we call them liars.

Having “broken” this story several years ago, we have had plenty of time to follow the progression of bullshit from the gaseous interests. It goes something like this:

Lie #1: Fracking does not cause earthquakes.
While it is true that fracking itself rarely causes earthquakes (it causes other problems, but that’s not our concern here), it is entirely true that there is no waste water from the fracking process until there is fracking.

Lie #2 (Bonus Lie): We have been fracking for decades with no problems.
Right. And the Santa Maria and the USS Nemesis are both boats. Like many of the lies told by oil industry spokes models, this one cloaks a powerful truth inside an innocuous statement that is true on the face of it. The fracking process used today is not the same process used for decades. Today’s fracking uses millions of gallons of water more than previously methods, and is immensely more powerful.

The other part of Lie #2 really is just a plain old lie. Geologists have known for decades that injecting liquids underground changes the pressures and stresses on the formations. But few up to this point have had a professional interest in explaining this to the public.

Lie #3: OK, but the earthquakes aren’t very large.
Most of them are not large, but they are steadily moving up the Richter Scale. While there was a point where it was possible to believe earthquake swarms were just a mild inconvenience – one of the many things people must put up with to have “jobs” – the destructive power of the quakes has also been increasing. There are numerous cases of damage to public and private property. In addition to the Prague quake, a 4.5-magnitude earthquake shook Oklahoma City in June of this year.

Lie #4: OK, but no one has died.

Only a matter of time, boys. Then you’ll have to get out the $900 an hour lawyers.

High pressure injection storage wells have been causing earthquakes for decades, but with the current drilling and fracking bonanza in full swing, the frequency of human induced quakes is skyrocketing in the places where gas and oil is extracted. And even the sheep people who have let the petro pimps run their lives in Jimmy Inhofe’s state are getting alarmed and angry. As the lawyers on both sides begin to sort it out, the extent to which oil and gas interests control entire states will become obvious for anyone who is paying attention.

* A north Texas jury actually awarded a family $2.9 million due to lawsuit against Aruba Oil because the company’s fracking operations were making them sick.

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