Statewide, there were 109 quakes in 2013 that were measured at a magnitude of 3 or higher. In 2014, that number was 585. According to the office of the Secretary of Energy and Environment, the pace of earthquake activity in Oklahoma has definitely accelerated this year. The current average rate is approximately 600 times historical averages.
All of us living in Logan and northern Oklahoma counties are well aware that there have been a lot more earthquakes in our part of the state recently—we’ve certainly noticed them at our house. When several of them happen in a relatively short time, it can leave you feeling more than just a little shaken.
Last year Governor Fallin directed that office to lead the Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity, which brings together universities, regulators, legislators, seismologists and industry associations with the mission of coordinating and sharing information across state agencies and the state’s oil and gas industry, identify gaps in resources, and work cooperatively to develop solutions.
While some seismic activity in Oklahoma occurs naturally, researchers agree that high volume, deep oil and gas wastewater disposal wells pose the highest risk for induced seismicity. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) has developed a system of licensing disposal wells to mitigate risk, as well as identifying and even shutting down those presenting the greatest risk. However, even though there are disposal wells in this part of the state, there are none that meet the current high risk criteria of high volume and deep depth—that’s despite the new recent earthquake activity here.
Because of this, OCC’s Oil and Gas Division has moved up the timetable to develop additional criteria for determining which disposal wells pose the greatest risk for triggering earthquakes. Just two weeks ago they received a new study by Dr. Mark Zoback, a nationally-known professor of geophysics at Stanford University. One of the things his research examined is the cumulative volume of a disposal well and the impact that may have on earthquakes, rather than just high-volume, deep wells. After evaluating that and other new sources of data, OCC will determine additional criteria for mitigating induced quakes.
The recent swarm of earthquake activity is unsettling. As a homeowner, I am right there with everyone else who has a house or other property. There are also Corporation Commission employees who live in Logan and Oklahoma counties, and they are as concerned about their homes as you and I. They are dealing with the same issues the rest of us are, and they certainly have a vested interest in developing pro-active solutions as quickly as possible. I’m pleased with their responsiveness in providing our office with information about this issue, and will continue to stay in communication with OCC to stay informed about the latest developments.
As always, please feel free to contact my Capitol office with any questions or concerns you may have about legislation or other issues impacting our state at 405.521.5628 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.