Fracking Our Way into the Unknown

Oklahoma, that battered state with
unprecedented tornadoes is facing another anomaly—earthquakes. Although they
are not unknown in the state, from 1972 to 2008 only an average of two were
recorded each year. 

Then the lid came off the kettle.
Beginning in 2009,
the frequency of annual earthquakes increased to hundreds in 2014 and 2015, an
occurrence that now has a name—earthquake
. One of the most significant earthquakes of this current swarm was a
5.6 magnitude earthquake east of the Oklahoma City area, the strongest in the history of Oklahoma. Makes hornets in
the backyard seem like a minor inconvenience.

2014 recorded 567 Oklahoma
earthquakes (of at least 3.0 magnitude) in Oklahoma, more than those of that
size during the previous 30 years combined.
This sort of thing is happening elsewhere as well, where ‘swarms’ are found in and
around fracking sites. Ohio and Pennsylvania, both states with not much quake
history are shaking, rattling and rolling. Both states are fracking-active as
So take all that as you will. But the United
States Geological Survey (USGS) says that small quakes can lead to large ones,
particularly along ‘fault lines.’  Active
volcanoes are at risk as well. Interestingly, fracking seems not so much of a
risk as the disposal of fracking
liquids, but it’s early days in the research.
So, two recent convergences caught my
First, Wyoming is among
the most active in fracking sites. Enough that Earth Justice reports “In the drilling rig-studded Upper Green
River Basin, levels of ozone—the main component of smog – have reached 124
parts per billion—well over the federal safety standard and worse than the
worst day in Los Angeles in 2010
Ah well, just another
environmental outfit getting excited, no? But the location of those sites bothers me and I’ll tell you why. Three of the four Wyoming sites are
contiguous to the eastern and southern boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.
And therein lies the
rub of that second convergence.
I’d never heard of the Yellowstone Caldera
until a couple of days ago, although I’ve visited the park numerous times and
hunted nearby in Montana. But I read an article that called it a super-volcano located in
Yellowstone National Park. 
Volcanoes scare me. Mount Ranier, near Seattle is a
threat to pop off and I drove past Mt. St. Helens (a segment of the Pacific
Ring of Fire that includes over 160 active volcanoes) on my way up the coast in
the summer of 1980. It blew its top on the day after my birthday. Not a pretty sight,
as our car made an actual motorboat-wake of ash on the highway. 
The Yellowstone
Supervolcano makes St. Helens seem tiny. The magma (molten lava) lying under this caldera measures 34 by 45 miles and contains enough lava to fill the Grand Canyon.
That got my attention. Consider the convergences tied up
neatly and pray we don’t foolishly and ignorantly untie them.
According to our old
friend Wikipedia, “currently, volcanic
activity is exhibited via numerous geothermal vents scattered throughout the
region, including the famous Old Faithful Geyser, plus recorded ground swelling
indicating ongoing inflation of the underlying magma chamber.
Swelling? Ongoing
inflation? Could the bursting of that bubble be set off by nearby fracking?
Who the hell knows? Cluster-earthquakes are
known to trigger larger ones and It doesn’t take much to ignite an explosion if
the material is in place. The materials seem uncomfortably close in this
particular circumstance.
So, along with the threat (and in some cases
actuality) of poisoning our precious underground fresh-water aquifers, major
earthquakes triggering both major and minor eruptions are a fracking
By the by, those
aquifers are themselves interesting and contain what’s left of a major resource.
As an example, the Ogallala Aquifer of the central United States is one of the
world’s great aquifers. This huge freshwater source, which underlies portions
of eight states, contains primarily fossil water from the time of the last
Think about that. The
water we put at risk is 12,000 years old
and cannot be sufficiently
recharged from the surface.
Anyway, that’s my day’s take on fracking and
I know it promises energy
independence, but there are other options and simply too many unanswered
questions to take fracking at face value. Question number one; what the hell
are they pumping down into the earth?
The answer is they won’t tell us. The fracking industry won’t even tell the EPA
who purports (small laugh) to regulate them. Frackers claim all that chemical
glop is an industrial secret and cannot be disclosed. Al Capone would have
loved to use that excuse for bootleg whiskey.
I would suppose that if a pharmaceutical
company refused to disclose the content and testing circumstances of a new
drug, the FDA would simply deny them a certification. Case closed. With
fracking, it seems logical to tell them, 
“You don’t have to tell us what chemicals you’re
pumping into the ground. Simply pack up your equipment and go home until you do.”

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