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Posts Tagged ‘fracking’

KS HB 2641: A Step To Limit Induced Seismic Activity

Tue ,13/02/2018

The proposed Kansas House Bill 2641 will limit the amount of  fracking disposal fluids that can be injected at a given site. It is a start, but Kansas needs to learn from Oklahoma’s experience and be proactive in limiting induced earthquakes from disposal wells.

Rationale:  Historically, Oklahoma has had very few earthquakes. The graph below shows that Oklahoma had an average of about two earthquakes per year up until about 2008, when horizontal drilling and fracking began to be used to recover gas and oil. Along with the increase in fracking, came the need for disposal wells to get rid of the waste water from the fracking operations. And along with the wastewater disposal wells, came an increase in earthquakes.

For some reason, it took Oklahoma a long time to link the two and take effective action, even though the link has been known for decades. When the U.S. Army’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal built a disposal well in 1961 to get rid of waste fluids, seismic activity in the area increased. The well was plugged and the earthquakes stopped. A study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) determined that the “deep, hazardous waste disposal well at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal was causing significant seismic events in the vicinity of Denver, Colorado.”

Our experience:  In November of 2011, an earthquake measuring 5.6 rattled Oklahoma and was felt as far away as Illinois. We were living in Terlton, Oklahoma at the time and felt several earthquakes, including that one. Small cracks appeared in our sheet rock and in the foundation of our house. When we sold our house in Terlton to move back to Kansas, the mortgage company insisted the damage be inspected by a structural engineer. Structural engineers were in great demand at the time to inspect earthquake damage and it caused a long delay. Our house passed the inspection but we had the added delays and expense of hiring the structural engineer. Other people have not been so lucky.

Damage: A search on Google for “newspaper articles on earthquake damage in Oklahoma”, gave 2,270,000 hits and there are thousands of pictures showing the earthquake damage in Oklahoma, such as these:

Some of the damage has extended as far north as Wichita, as shown by these pictures:

Fracking related earthquakes have caused millions of dollars of property damage in Oklahoma, and many Oklahoma residents are now purchasing earthquake insurance, when it was never needed before. Many Kansas residents are also wondering if they need to undergo the additional expense of earthquake insurance. The damage costs to public utilities, buildings, roads, and bridges are born by taxpayers. Although there have been several lawsuits in Oklahoma against disposal well companies, very little money has been recovered to pay for induced earthquake damages.

Further action:  Kansas has a unique opportunity to learn from what happened in Oklahoma, and take action to limit induced earthquakes and the cost to Kansas citizens. Effective legislation is needed to:

1) restrict the location of disposal wells.
2) limit the amount of wastewater that can be disposed of at a site.
3) limit the pressure which can be used to inject the wastewater.
4) require that any disposal well linked to significant seismic activity be further regulated.
5) require that disposal well companies carry liability insurance and pay earthquake damage claims promptly.

Kansas House Bill 2641 is certainly a step in the right direction. It addresses number 2) above and asks that every county in Kansas be under the same regulations by the KCC to keep volume at 8,000 barrels per day, which is considered a level that minimizes earthquakes. That is a start, but more legislation is needed.

Note! It wasn’t a start after all. KS HB 2641 died in committee.

(c) 2018  – J.C. Moore

Oklahoma: Where We Subsidize Air Pollution and Earthquakes

Thu ,17/04/2014

Oklahoma is now coming in near last in most measures of civilized society, yet it is still cutting taxes – even as the Capitol Building is falling down. Generous in their hearts, the state Legislature has dug deep into the states resources to find a few hundred  million to continue its subsidies for state businesses.

One little-known act of generosity is the subsidies to the state coal mining industry. They’ve had a tough time of it, as Oklahoma’s coal is high in sulfur and is not worth much on the fuel market. Over the years the subsidy has been increased from $1 per ton to $5 or $10, no one is quite sure. Estimates are that the subsidies are costing the state about $16 million per year. That is not much when you consider what Oklahomans get for it, richer insurance companies and air pollution.

The subsidy is paid as a tax credit, but the coal mines are mostly unprofitable and pay very little in taxes. The laws were a little vague about what to do with the leftover credits, so the coal companies were  selling them to insurance companies at a discount, providing cash for the coal companies and a few million dollars per year for our struggling insurance companies. That cushy deal was cut out of couple of years ago, and the coal mines are now required to return the credits to the state for $0.85 on the dollar.

Since nobody really wants to buy Oklahoma’s coal, the Legislature required that Oklahoma’s coal-fired power plants buy and use 10% of it to generate power. Since many of the power plants do not have adequate pollution control and scrubbers, the high sulfur coal produces more particulates and aerosols, which are considered air pollution by that interfering old EPA.

The state Legislature is now working on a bill which will put a three-year moratorium on building new wind farms in the Eastern Oklahoma while they study the problem. There are 27 windfarms in Western Oklahoma and a number of reports about their success, but apparently it will take the legislature three years to get around to looking at them. I brought that up as the Legislature seems much less curious about the relationship between fracking and earthquakes.

A bill to put a three-year moratorium on fracking while the problem is studied – would likely get little support in the state Legislature. Besides, that would leave a lot of money in the Legislature’s pocket with no place to spend it. While digging around for money to support the coal industry, the Legislature turned up an extra $200 million or so, which they are now using to subsidize fracking in Oklahoma. The legislature thinks the subsidy is important as it keeps our frackers from moving out of state, though some tightwad skeptics have pointed out that the frackers are probably here because that’s where the natural gas is.


Click to enlarge.

It seems that there’s been a small increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma since fracking started, as shown in the graph. However our state Legislators are not big on graphical data, as it might involve statistics and is most likely based on models or something like that that you can’t trust. And they are not much for research either, as it appears that the federal government has known for decades about the link between injection wells and earthquakes.

A number of our citizens, particularly those whose walls and foundations are developing cracks, or those whose chimneys and other stonework are falling down, are beginning to wonder. Getting back to that crumbling infrastructure, there’s been a lot of unusual damage lately to roads and bridges in areas prone to earthquakes. And then there is the problem with the crumbling Capitol Building. Unfortunately, we will never know the cause as the Legislature just doesn’t have the time or money to study the problem.

(C) 2014 J.C. Moore