Oklahoma has registered about 1,829 earthquakes in the past year, attributable to wastewater injection from deep underground drilling wells — wells that will likely multiply under an incoming Donald Trump administration.
The state saw a record-breaking year, with a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in September and 4.5-magnitude and 5.0-magnitude ones in November, after which the governor declared a state of emergency and the state to introduce new restrictions on injection wells.
The injection often comes from a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has more notably affected seismic activity in several quiescent oil-drilling states like Kansas, Arkansas and Texas, which recorded 1,225, 200 and 51 earthquakes last year, respectively.
Fracking uses large quantities of chemicals and produces large amounts of waste fluid, which contains pollutants and emits methane. The injection of the waste increases seismic activity, and the toxins directly affect local populations.
Payne, Oklahoma hosts at least 200 of the state’s 4,000 gas wells that use fracking, and resident Earl Hatley, a descendant of the Cherokee/Delaware tribe and founder of Local Environmental Action Demanded, told IPS that the toxins and emissions are too strong to keep living there. IPS also cites 685 scientific studies that show the impact of those emissions and water polluters on human health.
An investigation by FracTracker calculated that earthquakes in Oklahoma and Kansas are becoming about 330 feet deeper per quarter and 12.5 times more frequent since two years ago, from 44 quakes per quarter in 2011 to 551 the past two years. Payne experienced more than an earthquake a day in 2016, which Hatley said were rare until 2007.
Over half of the barrels of oil and gas produced in the U.S. in 2015 were obtained by fracking, according to the Energy Information Administration, and that rate will likely increase under Trump. His 100-day plan released in May hails an “energy revolution” under his tenure that would involve lifting all barriers in the energy industry, which he said will grow to US$50 trillion.