Commentary: Stop quakes sooner, not later 

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It was just a few months ago, June 20 to be exact, when my daughter woke me up around midnight. She had just fallen asleep after celebrating her 16th birthday but was terrified. An earthquake had just awakened her.

Sierra Club Oklahoma and Public Justice, a public interest law firm that works to protect the environment, civil rights and the rights of employees and consumers, are working in conjunction to put an end to this type of fear and anxiety experienced by thousands of Oklahoma residents on a daily basis. Our goal is not to “crush the oil and gas industry.” Instead, our mission is to give a voice to Oklahomans whose voices are being drowned out by companies that claim they are Oklahoma’s best friends.

This is not how friends treat each other.

On Oct. 30, we filed a Notice of Intent to Sue.

In that document, we state: “Defendants (oil and gas companies) are violating RCRA [Resource Conservation and Recovery Act] as a result of past and present handling and disposal of Production Wastes in a manner that may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health and the environment. Indeed, the threat caused poses a clear and present danger to the health of Oklahoma residents and their environment.”

The numbers back up this claim. In June, the journal Science published a study by University of Colorado, Boulder, and the U.S. Geological Survey. It reported an “unprecedented” surge in earthquakes across the central U.S., especially in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. About 10 percent of injection wells in the study area — more than 18,000 wells — were found to be associated with earthquakes.

Plus, earthquakes stronger than 4.0 are becoming a regular occurrence in Oklahoma. This is not about financial gain; this is about taking stronger action to stop the earthquakes.

Do not let the oil and gas industry fool you. This issue is far from under control. On the very day we publicly announced our intent, a 4.4-magnitude earthquake struck Langston.

The oil and gas industry is using Oklahoma as a lab to figure out just how far it can go before our land splits open and destroys our homes and communities.

Johnson Bridgwater is director of the Oklahoma chapter of Sierra Club, proudly helping Oklahomans explore, enjoy and protect their environment since 1972.

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