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Earthquakes in Oklahoma and Kansas draw activists to Medford

Sierra Club Oklahoma Executive Director Johnson Bridgwater speaks with 91 year old Ada Mae Mot, from Medford, Oklahoma during the Earthquake Fighters Feast & Film event held last week.  Photo provided.
Sierra Club Oklahoma Executive Director Johnson Bridgwater speaks with 91 year old Ada Mae Mot, from Medford, Oklahoma during the Earthquake Fighters Feast & Film event held last week. Photo provided.

By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter

Last week more than 100 people converged on Medford, Oklahoma to attend the Earthquake Fighters Feast & Film event sponsored by Sierra Club chapters of Kansas and Oklahoma. The forum addressed the science behind the rash of earthquakes occurring in the two states and focused on what citizens can do to bring attention to the issue.

The community of Medford provided drinks and OK/KS Sierra Clubs provided sandwiches, chips and desserts for the event.

“Before the last couple years, I never even thought about earthquakes,” said Medford resident Ada Mae Mot, 91. “But recently I was in the kitchen fixin’ a bite to eat, and I was dropped to the floor by an earthquake. I swore the east side of my house was goin’ to cave in. I lay on the floor crying and shaking; just scared to death.”

Mot believes that the earthquakes are related to the overall issue of fracking in Oklahoma.

Although fracking has not been blamed as the major culprit behind the Oklahoma- Kansas earthquake influx, the disposal of the by-products generated by fracking (wastewater and drilling waste fluids) have been directly linked to earthquakes.

The United States Geological Survey analyzed changes in the rate of earthquake occurrence recorded since 1970.using USGS databases of earthquakes

The report found the average number of earthquakes jumped from 21 per year from 1972–2008 to 99 earthquakes per year from 2009–2013.

“We want Oklahoma citizens to have their health and safety to be seen as the number one priority, not the profits of the companies running the injection wells and the fracking operations that are producing the materials being injected into the wells,” said Johnson Bridgwater, Sierra Club OK Executive Director.

Today, fracking waste products are being injected into underground injection wells in record volumes.

Bridgwater stated, “In particular, the USGS predicts Oklahoma will experience a doubling of 3.0+ earthquakes across our state for 2015.”

Event speaker Dr. Todd Halihan, OSU Professor of Hydrogeophysics stated, “There has been progress on the induced seismicity issue on all fronts in Oklahoma, but there is still more work to do.”

The program included a screening of the movie “Groundswell Rising: Protecting Our Children’s Air and Water,” It highlights many of the concerns surrounding the fracking industry.

In a live Skype session, the film’s director, Renard Cohen said that he made the film “to show everyday people that you can make a difference in your community. It is up to the people living in areas that are experiencing problems to stand up, ask for change, and then work to make that change happen.”

Both Oklahoma and Kansas Sierra Clubs are calling on their respective states to issue moratoriums on the use of injection wells in the areas most impacted by the rise in earthquakes. In the case of Oklahoma, this equates to 16 counties in north central region of the state.

Bridgwater said, “We believe the Governor and our state government have a responsibility to bring an end to these earthquake swarms as quickly as possible.” He continued, “Based on the scientific connection between the use of injection wells and the occurrence of the earthquakes in Oklahoma, we believe a moratorium is the most direct and fastest way to stop them.”

In a press release regarding directives issued by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division (OGCD) last March, Tim Baker, OGCD Director said, “While the response to directives has been positive, much more remains to be done.

The neighboring state of Arkansas placed a temporary moratorium on the operation of injection wells last March when a magnitude-4.7 earthquake shook the area.  It was the largest the state had experienced in 35 years.

“These wells are still shut down,” Bridgwater stated.

“We need citizens to come forward and share their stories about how earthquakes have affected them,” Bridgwater said. “They can share their stories with us via email at [email protected]

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