On Labor Day weekend of 2016, Oklahomans were furious.
At 7am, homes throughout most of the state were violently shaken by a quake registering near 6.0 on the richter scale.
I jumped from my bed and called my family into the upstairs hallway while we feared the destruction of our home. the quake resided in about 15 seconds, but we didn't know if it was going to be the last 15 seconds of our lives.
The legislature did nothing to abate the quakes during the previous 5 years. In fact, they passed laws to prohibit counties from putting moratoriums on petroleum production activities.
State Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) reported on industry attempts to press OU president David Boren to put a gag order on Austin Holland, of the USGS Oklahoma affiliate.
Back to my hallway...
With my daughter & wife terrified and asking questions, I decided to go to my computer and pull up the USGS website. Within 15 minutes the initial data came in, complete with map coordinates. I entered those longitude/latitude numbers into Google Earth and zoomed into the epicenter.. I was shocked!
Google directed me to a petroleum site with storage tanks and what appeared to be an injection well set up. It was half way between Tulsa & Stillwater.
I posted an article within a few minutes and included a screen shot of the satellite image. I vented my outrage at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for doing next to nothing about the exploding environmental crisis. Within hours there were reposts and social media shares of my article going around the world. My reports made the evening news and became part of the petroleum industry clamoring. Google Analytics showed that Houston & Dallas i.p. addresses were pulling up my article by the tens of thousands of 'hits'.
But the most rewarding part of my work came when the Oklahoma Corporation Commission issued a press release to say they set up a public symposium for the following week, at the University of Tulsa. They issued a sweeping moratorium on injection wells and the Federal EPA backed up their game plan, ordering tribal lands to comply.
Recent Tremors & Oklahoma's Top 25 Earthquakes
We've included 2 spreadsheets of accumulative study.
Since then the quake activity has dissipated far quicker than anyone suspected.
Sure, millions of dollars in structural damages were suffered because of a few irresponsible oil producers.
No, it's not likely that the residents of Oklahoma will be justly compensated for the damages incurred.
But the great news is that trouble left us and we know where it went. We know how the trouble came and how to prevent further harms to our state.
Oklahoma never should have become less stable than California. We have had to find more responsible ways to deal with the saltwater that comes up with our sweet crude. And the energy industry has more to fear from legislative tax increases than environmental mandates.