Six years ago, state seismologist wasn’t the most important job in Oklahoma.
Now that Oklahoma is the No. 1 earthquake area in the world, it’s obviously a very critical position.
More than 800 magnitude 3.0 or greater earthquakes have been recorded in Oklahoma this year.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has taken steps in regulating the oil and gas industry in a prevention effort during a record-breaking year for earthquakes in our state.
The OCC recently directed two wastewater injection disposal wells in Alfalfa County to halt operations and 23 other wells in the county to reduce volume after several earthquakes were recorded, including one that measured magnitude 4.7.
Less than three months after Oklahoma Geological Survey announced it was “very likely” most of our state’s quakes were triggered by injection wells, OGS Chief Seismologist Austin Holland left to work for U.S. Geological Survey.
Holland now is supervisory geophysicist at the Albuquerque (N.M.) Seismic Lab for USGS.
In September, the state research seismologist announced she was leaving. The state’s lead seismologist position has not yet been filled.
And a recently vacated research seismologist position still needs to be hired.
OGS Director Jeremy Boak said he hopes the lead position will be filled early next year.
In a Monday Enid News & Eagle report, Boak claimed OGS operations weren’t compromised following the departure of two seismologists.
“Our lead analyst is a seismologist, and we have one other seismologist who has been filling in for (the former research seismologist),” Boak said. “We also have a seismology technician who is ensuring the network is up and running. In addition, we have the participation of a seismologist from the ConocoPhillips School of Geology and Geophysics, as well as a hydrogeologist and several geologists, geophysicists and petroleum engineers working on aspects of the problem,” Boak said.
But the state’s regulatory agency says the two seismologist vacancies may be complicating that response, according to The Frontier investigative news website.
“The fact that we don’t have the resources we used to have over there is a very big problem for us,” OCC spokesman Matt Skinner told The Frontier on Tuesday.
Boak told The Frontier he was unaware of concerns about the vacancies until Monday.
In an effort to attract the brightest candidates, the OGS recently expanded its search.
If the OCC is concerned, we are concerned.
We hope the OGS prioritizes refilling these vacancies.
The OCC relies on seismologists and geophysicists to determine whether or not a given well or a group of wells have induced a specific earthquake or series of quakes.
With the USGS reporting factors aligning for Oklahoma to have another magnitude 5.7 or greater earthquake, getting the very best answers possible on the causes and solutions is critical for our state.