The sudden and violent increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma since 2008 has been well documented: in 2009, the state recorded 50 earthquakes; in 2015, that number exploded to 6,479. Historically, Oklahoma is not a state known for its seismic activity. From 1975 to 2008, Oklahoma averaged only one to three 3.0 magnitude (or greater) earthquakes annually, but from 2009 to mid-2013, this annual average grew to about 40.
Oklahoma is now the most seismically active state in the continental United States – more than California. That’s not a record Oklahomans should be happy to claim. And now, Oklahoma is breaking new ground: an earthquake in the state on September 3 was the strongest ever recorded there, with a magnitude of 5.8.
What do we have to thank for this dramatic change in our country’s seismic landscape? In a word: fracking. More specifically, the disposal of toxic fracking wastewater through high-pressure underground injection, which experts acknowledge causes the quakes. From 2009 to 2014, as earthquake activity increased drastically, wastewater injection volumes grew by about 43 percent.
We mustn’t tolerate the dangerous and literally earth-shattering effects of fracking any longer. The oil and gas industry has already shown its willingness to put profits over the health and safety of the people living in affected communities. And unless we stop fracking and keep fossil fuels in the ground right now, Oklahoma—and much of the rest of the country—can count on more, and likely worse, earthquakes.
That’s why we need to call on our elected officials and let them know that we can’t wait anymore: we need clean, renewable energy sources—ones that won’t leave us worried about the next rumbling disaster.