New Fracking-related Earthquakes in Oklahoma Heighten Call for Oil, Gas Lease Withdrawal

For Immediate Release

New Fracking-related Earthquakes in Oklahoma Heighten Call for Oil, Gas Lease Withdrawal

CUSHING, Okla. - Sunday’s earthquake that damaged dozens of buildings near an oil and gas pipeline hub in Cushing, Okla., is further proof that fracking and wastewater injection are too dangerous to people and property to be allowed to continue, the Center for Biological Diversity said today. The Center in May called on the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw 11 proposed oil and gas leases in Oklahoma because of earthquake risks. The BLM has yet to respond to that request.

The Center on Friday filed a supplemental letter to its April protest highlighting the increase in human-induced earthquake activity in the region and the Bureau’s ongoing refusal to analyze those potential impacts in its oil and gas lease approvals.

The 5.0 magnitude quake was the third temblor this year in Oklahoma to register greater than 5.0, according to The Associated Press, including a magnitude 5.8 quake on Sept. 3 in Pawnee. More than two dozen earthquakes have shaken Oklahoma in the past week, the AP said. The increase in quakes has been linked to human activity, such as hydraulic fracturing and wastewater injection, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study.

“We don’t need a major earthquake that claims lives and costs millions in damage to tell us the rapid increase in fracking and wastewater injection in Oklahoma and neighboring states is the cause,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center. “The USGS has already linked seismic activity to wastewater disposal associated with fracking and has raised the risk for damaging quakes in Oklahoma and Kansas. We renew our call on Interior Secretary Jewell to cancel public leases recently auctioned in the region before more serious harm occurs.”

Sunday’s quake occurred in Cushing, the self-proclaimed “Pipeline Crossroads of the World,” where a confluence of pipelines and storage facilities is located. No infrastructure damage was reported to the pipelines or a nearby storage facility that recently held more than 58 million barrels of crude, the AP said. Downtown Cushing was evacuated Sunday and schools were closed today, reports said.

“It’s only a matter of time until these increasing quakes cause catastrophic damage,” McKinnon said. “Alongside the worsening climate crisis, earthquakes are yet another reason that President Obama should end the federal fossil fuel leasing programs now.”

Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that these dangerous wastewater-injection practices cause destructive quakes, the BLM, which reviews and auctions public lands for fracking, failed to consider these effects in its evaluation of its latest lease auction in April 2016. A new environmental review released last month for the agency’s next lease auction in April 2017 also fails to consider these effects.

Background
On behalf of the American people, the U.S. federal government manages nearly 650 million acres of public land and more than 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf — and the fossil fuels beneath them. This includes federal public land, which makes up about a third of the U.S. land area, and oceans like Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Seaboard. These places and the fossil fuels beneath them are held in trust for the public by the federal government; federal fossil fuel leasing is administered by the Department of the Interior.

Over the past decade, the combustion of federal fossil fuels has resulted in nearly a quarter of all U.S. energy-related emissions. A 2015 report by EcoShift Consulting, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, found that remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. As of earlier this year, 67 million acres of federal fossil fuel were already leased to industry, an area more than 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

Last year Sens. Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (I-Vt.) and others introduced the Keep It In the Ground Act (S. 2238) legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Days later President Obama canceled the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying, “Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”

Download the September 2015 “Keep It in the Ground” letter to President Obama.

Download Grounded: The Presidents Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground (this report details the legal authorities with which a president can halt new federal fossil fuel leases). 

Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels (this report quantifies the volume and potential greenhouse gas emissions of remaining federal fossil fuels) and The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions fact sheet. 

Download Over-leased: How Production Horizons of Already Leased Federal Fossil Fuels Outlast Global Carbon Budgets.

Download Critical Gulf: The Vital Importance of Ending Fossil Fuel Leasing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Download Public Lands, Private Profits about the corporations profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands.

Download the Center for Biological Diversity’s legal petition calling on the Obama administration to halt all new offshore fossil fuel leasing.

Download the Center for Biological Diversity’s legal petition with 264 other groups calling on the Obama administration to halt all new onshore fossil fuel leasing.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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