Every now and then, I like to remind people that the energy industry runs Oklahoma. I know it’s not breaking news or anything, but it’s something we should all know and remember. They control our government, our economy, our higher education, and even our local media. About the only thing they don’t control yet is our tribal casinos. Expect that to change once the legislature votes to allow slot machines at drill sites.
Back in 2013, the energy industry took a page out of the global warming denial playbook and called upon their friends in the media and government to help cast a bit of doubt on the true cause of Oklahoma’s earthquakes. The action gave us beautiful gems like this from the “investigative reporting” wing of News 9:
Latest Swarm Of OK Earthquakes Could Be Tied To Lake Arcadia
Oklahoma’s 4-year-long earthquake swarm suddenly has more people talking. That is likely due to the fact that the most recent burst of seismic activity has been shaking homes and rattling nerves in northeast Oklahoma City, an area far more densely populated that other areas that have been hit.
But the quakes also have Oklahoma’s top earthquake researcher talking about a unique possible cause
This latest mini-swarm of earthquakes has been packed tightly in an area just south of Arcadia Lake, and it seems they could be tied to the lake itself…
Normal water volume at Arcadia Lake is about 30,000 acre feet, but last June it spiked to 57,000 acre feet — almost double the volume, and thus also the weight.
A graphic produced by the Corporation Commission shows a spiking water level in red, and the recent spike in seismic activity in blue, and they mirror each other almost exactly.
Holland says there are known cases of seismicity being caused by the filling or draining of nearby reservoirs, and that could be the case here.
“There’s oftentimes quite long delays,” Holland explained, “three to six months between filling of reservoirs or large rainfall events, and these earthquakes that potentially get tied to those events.”
When this report came out, we immediately called B.S. If the rising and falling water levels at Lake Arcadia cause earthquakes, wouldn’t Edmond have a long history of recorded earthquakes? This is Oklahoma. Lake levels change more than Meg Alexander’s hairstyle. We’ll go three months without rain, and then during the State Fair or Arts Festival there will be a two-week monsoon. It’s how things work.
We weren’t the only logical / practical people who knew the report was fishy. In an email obtained by Energy Wire through an open records request, Austin Holland – the same guy who seemed to support the theory in the report above – distanced himself from his own comments nearly one week later after he was questioned by a colleague:
Bill, I am sorry I had meant to send you our information poster on the earthquakes which occurred near Lake Arcadia (attached). I appreciate your concern and certainly welcome any advice. I am quite skeptical myself of the potential link between a very small subset of earthquakes in the OKC metro area and the lake levels at Lake Arcadia the correlation as stated in our poster is interesting and requires further investigation.
He was “quite skeptical” of any link? WTF?! Then why did he go on camera and talk to News 9 about it???
The corporation commission mentioned this to reporters and I was asked to speak to it, so my hand was forced on this matter. One thing to remember is that we have had twice as much rainfall as normal so in addition to lake load you also have the additional subsurface aquifer loading, and the stress field has been modified by the previous earthquakes in the area.
Yeah, the Corporation Commission, those fantastic people who are supposed to represent the public’s interest and regulate the industry causing all the earthquakes, leaked the ridiculous theory to News 9. Thanks Corporation Commission!
As I mentioned, all this happened in 2013. At the time, the Oklahoma Geological Survey, politicians and other state leaders had still not acknowledged that Oklahoma’s earthquakes were being caused by wastewater injection wells. They were doing more important things like trying to cover everything up.
Since then, though, the narrative has changed. Here in 2016, even energy industry puppets like Mary Fallin and The Oklahoman acknowledge that Oklahoma’s earthquakes are caused by energy industry activities. Knowing that, imagine how much coffee I spit out on my computer monitor when I read this headline yesterday on News9.com…
Rapidly Rising Water Level At Arcadia Lake May Have Triggered Edmond Earthquake
Are you kidding me? They’re still trying to push this theory on us? I know Oklahoma ranks low in education, but we’re not that stupid. Will News 9 file a report next week informing everyone that smoking helps strengthen your lungs? It wouldn’t surprise me.
Check out the article:
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission took action Monday in regards to those recent Edmond earthquakes.
The commission directed the operators of five disposal wells within 10 miles of the epicenter to reduce volume. But a seismologist with the USGS said it may not have been disposal wells that triggered the last week’s earthquakes in Edmond.
USGS seismologist Dan McNamara thinks the rapidly rising water at Arcadia Lake, the result of Winter Storm Goliath may have triggered the 4.3-magnitude earthquake. The water rose two feet on the lake the day before that first 4.3-magnitude earthquake.
Ed Woods is a retired petroleum engineer. He lives in east Edmond, just a couple miles from the epicenter of the recent big earthquakes.
“It was the most severe one that we had felt since we had been here,” he said.
Woods has been looking into the earthquakes for the past year. Since he knew Arcadia Lake was close by, he looked up the lake levels and noticed they rose rapidly right before the first earthquake.
Woods did some calculating, and figured about 4.5 million tons of additional weight was added to the fault block right before the first earthquake.
“It’s another thing that needs to be considered, particularly since they are having trouble finding any active injection wells in this area,” Woods said.
When I reached this point in the article, and after cleaning all the coffee off my computer monitor, I considered locking myself in the Omniplex earthquake exhibit and crying. I can see the retired petroleum engineer who probably made a lot of money via the energy industry saying this crap, but what about the USGS seismologist? Is he bought and paid for by the industry, too? Did he just skip the coffee with Boren and Hamm and move straight to beers and giant Jenga?
Fortunately, the answer appears to be “no.”
McNamara thinks Woods may be on to something.
“Just based on our preliminary modeling, the distance from the fault and the time delay, it works out fairly well. This could be a possible cause,” he said.
McNamara said the Arbuckle formation underneath Oklahoma is already saturated, likely from disposal wells.
Any additional stress, such as a sudden lake level increase, can push a nearby fault to failure. In this case the earthquake reactivated a fault capable of producing an earthquake as big as a 6.0-magnitude and it runs right through a populated area.
“If you do get another large event like a 5.6 (magnitude) it would significantly more of a disaster in Oklahoma City than it was in Prague because more people are exposed,” McNamara said.
Ohhhh, that actually makes some sense. The injection wells have screwed things up so bad that even rain or ice filling up a lake will cause an earthquake. Knowing that, why did News 9 go with a misleading headline like “Rapidly Rising Water Level At Arcadia Lake May Have Triggered Edmond Earthquake? They should have gone with something more accurate like “Holy shit, disposal wells have screwed things up so bad that even lakes are causing earthquakes.” Seriously, what a joke. Blaming the earthquakes on Lake Arcadia would be like blaming a home foreclosure on a bank after you didn’t pay your mortgage for six months.
But… I guess you can’t really blame News 9 for misleading everyone. They have bills to pay, and the energy industry still needs to spin a bit a doubt on the cause of earthquakes until they figure out how to protect their own self interests. Fortunately for them, their friends in the media and government will help them do it.