hydraulic fracturing

Bloomberg’s Matthew Philips reiterates national security concern over quakes near the U.S. oil hub near Cushing, Okla., which “props up the $179 billion in West Texas Intermediate futures and options contracts traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange.”

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



In the five years since earthquakes first began blitzing Oklahoma, state officials have been hesitant to agree with scientists who blamed the oil and gas industry.

The shaking doesn't appear to be slowing, but the regulatory response is ramping up as more state officials acknowledge the link between increased seismic activity and waste fluid pumped into the disposal wells of oil fields.

To show how an oil and gas boom fueled a massive surge of earthquakes, scientists used algorithms, statistics and computer models of fluid flow and seismic energy.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom share pieces that have kept them reading. They share tidbits using the #NPRreads hashtag — and on Fridays, we highlight some of the best stories.

This week, we bring you four reads.

From NPR's Washington correspondent Don Gonyea:

It's only rock and roll.

Tamara Mix

After months of debate, drafting and deferring, the Stillwater City Council on Monday approved a stricter oil and gas ordinance.

The council unanimously approved the new rules, which were crafted with the input of residents, the energy industry and Senate Bill 809 — legislation that goes into effect in August preventing municipalities from enacting ordinances that ban fracking and other oil and gas activities, The Oklahoman‘s Adam Wilmoth reports:

The ordinance applies only to new wells. It imposes a 660-foot setback from the property line of “protected use” properties, including homes, churches, parks, schools, libraries and hospitals. It also forbids new structures being built within 400 feet of oil and gas wells put in after the ordinance becomes effective.

Ambient noise from drilling operations at the setback boundary will be limited to 69 decibels, which is about the same noise level as a vacuum cleaner. The ordinance includes higher variances from that sound level for limited periods of time.

Operators will be required to carry general liability commercial insurance policies of at least $1 million and environmental impairment insurance of at least $2 million. General umbrella liability coverage of at least $5 million also would apply.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In November 2011, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck near Prague, Okla., causing significant damage and injuring two people. Right away, the possibility that the disposal of wastewater by injecting it deep into the earth — part of the hydraulic fracturing process — was to blame came up.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

As Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm developed over the past few years, State Seismologist Austin Holland’s work days got a lot longer. That’s the main reason Holland is leaving his position in Oklahoma to be a supervisory geophysicist at the Albuquerque Seismic Lab.

From The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies:

“I have averaged about 80 hours each week for the 5 1/2 years I’ve been here,” Holland said Monday in an emailed statement. “I want to change my work-life balance, and this opportunity is a good way to do that.”

Since Holland came to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, the state has seen a rapid increase in earthquakes, some of which have been linked to disposal wells used for produced water from oil and gas activity.

While most of the attention on the impacts of fracking has focused on things like drinking water, air pollution and earthquakes, state regulators in Pennsylvania are working on another less-discussed, but no less serious, side effect of oil and gas development: forest fragmentation.

The team at Reveal produced a nifty video on Oklahoma’s earthquake surge that shows, with entertaining visuals, the science of “induced seismicity” — the scientific mechanism that explains how disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry can trigger earthquakes.

Sarah Nichols / Flickr

Gov. Mary Fallin signed controversial legislation in May outlawing municipal bans on fracking and other oil and gas activities. Officials in some communities are re-examining their local drilling ordinances to comply with the law, which goes into effect later this summer.

One city in southeastern Oklahoma, however, isn’t budging.


When McAlester Mayor Steve Harrison first heard state lawmakers were writing a law to end citywide bans on fracking and drilling, he contacted his state representative. He then called local leaders in other cities and, later, penned a protest letter to Fallin.

It didn’t work. The bill was signed into law May 29. Harrison’s final move was writing a eulogy, dubbed “Requiem for an Ordinance: 1974-2015.”

“Ordie, as I like to call him, never caused trouble for anyone while he was here. Leastwise, I never heard a complaint,” Harrison says, reciting the sarcastic ode, which was published in the mayor’s newsletter.