Oklahoma Awaits The Biggish One As Dormant Fault Zones Reawaken

No Sane Person Believes That Fracking Disposal Wells Are Not Causing the Astounding Escalation of Earthquakes In Oklahoma


New Earthquake SwarmsNew earthquake swarms causing major concerns about larger events in the future

A new series of serious earthquakes hit Oklahoma the first week in January. Two were alarmingly powerful (4.5+ magnitude) for a state that had virtually no seismic activity before 2009. All told, the state experienced a total of 70 quakes during the cycle that occurred the first week in January 2016. This latest swarm reaffirms powerful evidence that deep well oil and gas waste disposal is the cause of an 800% increase in mid-continental seismic events.

As was the case with a record smashing 5.6 m quake in Praque, OK in 2011, there was some more property damage and some injuries but no loss of life. Nevertheless, this series of quakes marks seven continuous years of exponentially increasing seismic events – to the point that Oklahoma now experiences twice as many quakes as California.

Most experts say it is likely that something bigger is on the way. According to the latest study in Geophysical Research Letters, fault lines such as those in the Edmond area are capable of being reactivated by the thousands of swarms that have occurred since 2009. There are at least a dozen of these zones.


  • Up until 2009, the state of Oklahoma experienced 2 – 3 earthquakes of 3+ per year
  • Since 2009 the state of Oklahoma has experienced 1741 earthquakes of 3+ magnitude and 60 of 4+ per year.
  • The surge in seismic events corresponds exactly to an exponential increase in the number of deep disposal wells deployed in central and northern Oklahoma to store toxic waste fluids from fracking operations. That trend began in 2008.
  • Even though the Oklahoma Geological Survey stopped denying the link in April of 2015, the Oklahoma oil and gas industry that controls the state continues to deny the relationship and have done their best to block damage lawsuits.

The citizens of this oil and gas addicted state are now subjected to multiple shakes a day when previously there were virtually none. The quake swarms have spread to southern Kansas and northern Texas. Beyond the obvious concerns, an often overlooked consequence of a 5+ quake is that Oklahoma’s buildings and infrastructure was not constructed with earthquakes in mind.

That’s because (for all practical purposes) there weren’t any.

New Earthquake Swarms

There has been some grudging progress. After years of flat out denial, the Oklahoma Geological Survey finally admitted the link between fracking waste disposal and earthquake swarms in April 2015. One has to believe that someone in Governor Mary Fallin’s office figured out that even in Oklahoma, the citizens are not going to put up with the situation forever. It could not have been a coincidence that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division (whatever that is) suggested a new plan just after a 4.7 quake was felt in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. We say “suggested” because the Corporation Commission has no actual regulatory power. Nevertheless, they did ask two disposal wells in the area to cease operation and others to reduce their rate of injection.

Damage Survey

  • Praque/Oklahoma (2011) Sanda Ladra was injured when the rock facing on her fireplace and chimney collapsed into the living room following a 5.6 quake
  • Shawnee/Oklahoma An historic tower steeple was knocked down on the campus of St. Gregory’s University and a building housing the monks workshop has been condemned because of structural damage. The oil industry is leaving it to God to pay for the damage.
  • Fairview/Kansas (2016) Cracks to brick walls and other residential damage
  • Oklahoma City (2016) Quake triggered power outage
  • Extensive damage to roads and bridges in central Oklahoma
  • Cushing, OK: Imminent catastrophic danger potential. This is a marriage national tank farm and pipeline crossroads. Seismologists consider this situation to be potentially disastrous

On the other hand, the Commission has issued a ban ban: local communities are not allowed to ban fracking. So much for that local control American right wingers claim to love. Patriotism is often intertwined with the economic interests of the fossil fuels industry.

It is also worth noting that one company has refused to comply with a shutdown order from the Commission: Sandridge Energy Inc. has refused to shutdown one of its wastewater disposal wells that had been identified by the commission as an earthquake threat. The disposals wells are part of Sandridge’s oil fracking operations.

In June 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that homeowners who had been injured or been victims of property damages caused by deep well disposal could sue for damages…just like in America. The case was originally dismissed on the premise that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission had not reviewed it. Even though the commission has no regulatory power, it apparently does have the ability to harass citizens.

Nevertheless, the odds of a taxpayer collecting damages are remote.

This entry was posted in Cushing Oklahoma Hub, Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Oklahoma earthquake swarms, Oklahoma Geological Survey. Bookmark the permalink.