Newly-obtained emails reveal that Oklahoma geologists were pressured by oil industry big-shots not to push on with their assessments of possible links between earthquakes in the state and hydraulic fracturing industry, most often referred to as fracking.
More than a year since a sharp spike in earthquakes in the region, which coincided with fracking for oil and gas, the Oklahoma Geological Survey say there might be a possible link. The rise resulted in magnitude 3 earthquakes almost twice daily on average – three times as many as in disaster-prone California.
But after the body issued a joint statement with the USGS in October 2013, saying that “activities such as wastewater disposal” could be a “contributing factor to the increase in earthquakes,” oil execs started to panic, according to newly-obtained emails by EnergyWire.
This allegedly led to the OGS avoiding mentioning that the lion’s share of earthquakes in the region was man-made. The silence has lasted since 2010 and was apparently due to pressure not to disclose the findings.
OGS geologist at the University of Oklahoma, Austin Holland, was one of the scientists aware of the link, but earlier did not wish to discuss it for lack of direct scientific proof.
It now turns out he was later being influenced by oil executives with a vested interest in the continuation of fracking in the area, according to the obtained emails.
“Researchers in Oklahoma, notably Austin Holland… have repeatedly said the increase in seismic activity cannot be fully explained by man-made causes,” Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association (OIPA) President Mike Terry said in a 2013 statement, pointing to Holland’s earlier scientific skepticism.
That statement coincided with Holland’s research, which found disturbing data from the southern town of Marietta, but stopped short of wholeheartedly acknowledging the fracking and earthquake link.