Keeping track

Polygons show where potential induced earthquakes have been extracted for the following: induced seismicity showing area near Oklahoma. Red = 2014 nondeclustered catalog, Green = 2013 nondeclustered catalog, Blue = 2012 and previous using a declustered catalog. The minimum magnitude used in these plots is 2.7. (U.S. Geological Survey)

U.S. Geological Survey

Since March 2014, we’ve been calling for solid scientific research to explain Oklahoma’s uptick in earthquakes.

We’ve had the science since last spring, and the earthquakes are increasing.

On April 21, the Oklahoma Geological Survey said it was “very likely” the majority of state quakes were triggered by injection wells associated with oil and gas production.

That same day, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin called the strongly worded statement “significant,” but the governor did not publicly comment on the issue until Aug. 4, when she finally stated there was a “direct correlation.”

We’re disappointed the governor’s office was slow to make the link. Between those dates, 743 magnitude 2.5 or greater earthquakes were recorded in Oklahoma.

Addressing the silence from April to August, Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague explained Fallin’s delayed announcement.

“I don’t think it was as much as a time gap as it was when somebody asked the question,” Teague said.

“When the governor made that announcement, it was more of the timing that she brought the press into the room and less that she changed her position.”

We realize energy is a billion-dollar industry in Oklahoma. We sense our state is still overcoming the fear of biting the hand that feeds us.

Science is evolving and improving rapidly, but it’s not a perfect system.

Published literature from past decades is being dusted off by scientists studying Oklahoma’s earthquakes.

Thankfully, energy companies now are providing their proprietary data on faults gathered through exploration.

In our state, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission uses the data to regulate the oil and gas industry

The silver lining with low oil prices may be less pushback from energy companies to divulge information.

Oklahoma should be detailed in policing and enforcing injection restrictions.

We appreciate the cooperation of increased data provided from the oil and gas industry, but relying solely on self-policing isn’t adequate given the high-stakes environment.

We’re reminded of President Reagan’s quote about “trust but verify,” meaning we need to periodically audit independently in light of recent developments.

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