2014 is looking like another booming year for the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma. In April, Governor Mary Fallin signed legislation encouraging the development of both traditional fuels and alternative energy. Some fear, however, that the increased oil and gas activity may be linked to increased earthquake occurrences in the state. So far in 2014, Oklahoma has experienced twice as many earthquakes as California—an amount that Oklahoma Seismology Chief Austin Holland calls "unprecedented."
As the use of fracking has increased, so has the amount of wastewater injected into fault lines. The amount of wastewater injected in Oklahoma wells increased 24% from 2006 to 2012 and now is more than 1 billion barrels annually. Some groups, such as Clean Energy Future OK and Stop Fracking Payne County, believe that the injection practice causes earthquakes. As a result, a number of studies have been conducted to determine whether the wastewater injection is to blame for the increased seismic activity. So far, studies indicate a "pretty strong correlation" between the injection and seismic activity, according to the deputy chief of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Those in the oil and gas industry, however, repeatedly point to the absence of any evidence showing a cause-effect relationship between the oil and gas operations and increased seismic activity. Many have expressed concern that the science be fully researched before laws are hastily written that might unnecessarily impede progress. Industry geologists contend the increase in seismic activity correlates with increased activity worldwide. Recent studies suggest that Oklahoma previously experienced similar earthquake numbers, but, because such activity predates the current seismic technology, it was not officially measured and recorded.
Oklahoma is not the only state to consider the issue. Arkansas and Ohio have enacted legislation to regulate or ban fracking, and several municipalities have considered or enacted similar limitations. Some speculate Oklahoma would be unable to ban fracking, even if desired to, due to the state's property laws regarding surface owner's rights and property owner's rights.