“From 1980 to 2000, Oklahoma averaged only two earthquakes a year of magnitude 2.7 or higher. That number jumped to about 2,500 in 2014, then to 4,000 in 2015 amid a boom in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — the process of injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand or gravel and chemicals into rock to extract oil and gas.” (New York Times 2017)
Unfortunately, the negative effects of fracking are still being speculated. However, many believe that there is a connection between the increase in hydraulic fracking and the increase in frequency and magnitude of earthquakes across America.
In recent years, Oklahoma, a state that shouldn’t be experiencing many earthquakes has been riddled with “hundreds of quakes with a magnitude of 3.0 and greater”. Some of which rival the high-hazard earthquakes that inflict California (Reston 2017).
While California and other states’ attorney generals quickly addressed the earthquakes and other environmental issues, Pruitt, in the 6 years that he was attorney general of Oklahoma, failed to. Locals believe that their state officials were slow to act on this issue. Oklahomans residents including the Pawnee Nation believe that energy companies are responsible for the increase in seismic activity.
When a 5.8 record-setting earthquake occurred in Pawnee, Oklahoma on September 3, 2015, the Pawnee Nation decided it was time to take action and attempted “to impose a moratorium on fracking on their tribal lands, to sue the US Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Land Management asking them to void drilling permits for natural oil and gas wells” (Reston 2017). Another lawsuit was filed by an Oklahoman woman against oil and gas producers placing the blame of the injuries she sustained from 5.7 earthquake in Prague, Oklahoma 2011 on them.
Although lawsuits were being filed and the Oklahomans showed disdain towards oil and gas companies, Pruitt did little to address the issue. This is most likely because of his relationship with oil and gas companies which was revealed in 2011 by the New York Times. The same oil and gas companies who were huge contributors to Pruitt’s re-election as Oklahoma’s attorney general in 2013.
So, why is this still an important issue now? The earthquakes in Oklahoma are still elevated and Trump has appointed Pruitt to be the head of the EPA, United States Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, a man who sided with corporations rather than the interest of the American people, who ignored the damage that gas and oil companies caused in Oklahoma’s environment, is now the head of the EPA, the organization that sets environmental standards nationwide.
New York Times. (2017, March 04). Pawnee Nation Sues Oklahoma Oil Companies in Tribal Court Over Earthquake Damage. Retrieved March 26, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/04/us/pawnee-nation-oklahoma-oil-earthquake-lawsuit.html
Reston, M. (2017, January 18). Trump’s EPA pick took hands-off approach to environmental crisis that shook Oklahoma. Retrieved March 26, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/17/politics/donald-trump-scott-pruitt-epa/