OKLAHOMA CITY — Governor Mary Fallin today said the first-ever map developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) showing potential ground-shaking hazards from both human-induced and natural earthquakes illustrates why action taken earlier this year by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) was necessary.
On Monday, USGS released maps revealing potential ground-shaking hazards from both human-induced and natural earthquakes. The USGS said the maps are also the first one-year outlook for earthquake hazards and the first time the USGS has identified human-induced earthquakes.
According to the USGS, the new maps show six states face the highest hazards: Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arkansas. Oklahoma and Texas have the largest populations exposed to human-induced earthquakes.
Researchers say the state’s rise in earthquakes is caused by the disposal of produced saltwater deep into the Arbuckle formation. The OCC, which has constitutional authority over oil and natural gas activity in the state, is following the recommendation of researchers and is continuing to work with operators to significantly reduce the overall disposal of produced water into the area of seismic interest within the Arbuckle formation area to 40 percent below the 2014 total.
The OCC last month issued a wide-ranging directive to saltwater disposal well operators in areas experiencing earthquakes. In the past year, regulators have issued more than a dozen directives to disposal well operators to limit activity or shut down in areas of earthquakes.
“Recent declines in produced wastewater disposal in Oklahoma are not reflected in the USGS map,” Fallin said. “This gives us even a stronger base in going forward and gives state regulators further justification for what they are doing.”
Today’s USGS report, which used earthquake data from 2015, states that some places in Oklahoma may experience damage if the induced seismicity continues unabated.
“Oklahoma remains committed to doing whatever is necessary to reduce seismicity in the state. The report supports the actions that we are taking,” said Fallin, who in 2014 formed the Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity, which organizes state resources and related activities to address Oklahoma’s earthquakes.
She said the USGS report will be reviewed to evaluate how recommendations can be included into the state Emergency Operations Plan and ongoing preparation efforts.
The governor, during a meeting with her Cabinet secretaries earlier this month, discussed how the state would respond to a large-scale seismic event. Fallin asked Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood to lead a statewide working group to develop an earthquake response plan.
Ashwood and several agency directors held their first meeting this morning.
“In Oklahoma, we recognize the importance of being prepared for all types of disasters that could affect the state, including earthquakes,” Ashwood said. “The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management is reviewing the report released today by the United States Geological Survey to determine how it may aid our catastrophic earthquake planning efforts. However, it is important to note that for emergency management, the cause of a disaster is not as critical as the outcome of the event and how it impacts our residents, infrastructure and communities. Preparing for, responding to, recovering from and mitigating against those outcomes will continue to be our focus.”
Oklahoma Energy and Environment Secretary Michael Teague said the USGS report released today highlights why action has been taken to address induced seismic risk in the state of Oklahoma.
“The Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s work to further reduce the overall disposal of produced water into the Arbuckle Formation is in line with researchers from across the country as the best way to lower the potential for seismic hazard highlighted in the USGS report,” he said.