Representatives of the oil and natural gas industry are warning of the potential economic costs in Oklahoma if a moratorium is issued on wastewater disposal wells that some suspect may be triggering earthquakes in the state.
Last year, Oklahoma recorded 585 earthquakes greater than a 3.0 magnitude, The Oklahoman reported. The Oklahoma Geological Survey said there have been more than 500 earthquakes greater than a 3.0 magnitude so far this year.
In response to the earthquakes, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has designated part or all of 21 counties as “areas of interest,” where operators have been told to reduce the depth of disposal wells in the Arbuckle formation, which is the deepest layer of sedimentary rock.
State Rep. Cory Williams said current efforts don’t go far enough and has called for a 12-month moratorium on disposal wells within the “areas of interest.” The Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club also has called for a moratorium.
“The state of Oklahoma has a duty not only to protect the industry and foster economic development, but also – and more importantly – to protect its resources and citizens,” Williams told the newspaper Wednesday. “I think right now we are doing one at the expense of the other.”
Energy In Depth, a project of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, has released a report saying a moratorium would effectively ban drilling throughout the area.
“Wastewater injection has been safely conducted in Oklahoma for nearly a century, and it’s an important component of oil and natural gas development, which itself is a critical part of Oklahoma’s economy,” said Steve Everley, Energy In Depth’s senior adviser. “Critics have suggested that injection can simply be shut down in response to earthquakes, but they fail to recognize the costs – both economic and environmental – that Oklahomans would bear if that type of policy were implemented.”
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