By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
On Tuesday, April 12, the Oklahoma Chapter of Sierra Club participated in the “Earth(quake) Day Rally at the state Capitol. The event was hosted by State Representative Richard Morrissette (D-Oklahoma City).
Approximately 100 people attended and heard leaders of ten local organizations speak on the issues of the recent siege of earthquakes which have rattled the state, as well as stewardship and local government.
The event began that morning with a march from the south end of the Capitol parking lot ending at the 1st Floor Rotunda. Participants carried signs and banners calling attention to the topics of clean energy, earthquakes, and democracy.
Event speakers included former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council; Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, Director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches; Johnson Bridgwater, Director of the Oklahoma Chapter of Sierra Club; Robert Jackman, an independent petroleum geologist; Nathaniel Batchelder, Director of the Peace House of Oklahoma City; Lisa Griggs, Founder of Logan County Coalition to Stop Induced Seismicity; and Earl Hatley of the Riverkeepers Alliance.
According to Bridgwater, the speakers shared their thoughts on how the State of Oklahoma should honor its environment by doing more on behalf of the public rather than “runaway corporate sponsorship.”
“There is no such thing as a Republican tree or a Democratic river,” Bridgwater said. “In fact, it was President Richard Nixon who signed into law important environmental agencies such as the EPA. Citizens of Oklahoma need to know our government is more concerned with environmental safety than with profits, but lack of decisive action on earthquakes seems to indicate otherwise.”
Batchelder, a longtime environmental activist, contends that the Legislature’s approval of tax incentives to oil and gas corporations while passing legislation thwarting solar and wind installations was just one reason Oklahomans should vote in November to replace them.
“The majority at the Capitol supports the agenda of the one percent over the interests of all the people and the environment,” Batchelder said. “We truly need a voter revolution to turn the state around.”
The rate of earthquakes registering 3.0 or higher in the state had “increased from one and a half per year prior to 2008 to the current average of two and a half per day.” For the first time, it also placed the blame on the oil and gas industry for “the majority of recent earthquakes,” estimating the rate of quakes had spiked to “approximately 600 times” the historical average.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), in 2015, Oklahoma was one of the most seismically active regions in the world, registering more than 6,000 quakes—nearly 1,000 of them measuring 3.0 or higher.
Goodman also reported that Daniel McNamara, a research geophysicist at the USGS’s Geologic Hazards Science Center in Golden, Colorado said, “While most earthquakes are natural, the ones in Oklahoma are man-made, and preventable.”
Members of the Sierra Club, including Conservation Committee Chair Kim Bartlett, delivered more than 450 signatures to the Governor’s office petitioning her to take action on the earthquake crisis.
Governor Fallin has yet to meet with any members of the public on this issue.
“We would like the Governor to know that Oklahomans want her to personally engage on this issue—not to simply pass it off to a state agency,” Bartlett stated. “She was elected to lead, not to follow.”
The Sierra Club followed the march and rally with a lobby session where 20 members met to discuss bills of importance, including Senate Bill (SB) 1388 which would eliminate the Scenic Rivers Commission and SB1308, one of several bills targeting the wind energy sector.
The state’s largest environmental group members then met one on one with their representatives and senators to discuss environmental bills that concern them as constituents.
Founded in1972, The Sierra Club Oklahoma Chapter has members in 75 out of 77 of Oklahoma’s counties with more than 3,000 members.
For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org/oklahoma.