Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday announced the creation of a Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity designed to help researchers, policymakers, regulators and the oil and natural gas industry study the state’s ongoing earthquake swarm.
“We believe that by linking scientists and energy experts, we can develop sound regulatory practices and policies in our state while also alleviating any questions our citizens might have,” Fallin said as she made the announcement at the opening of the Governor’s Energy Conference on Thursday. “We’re gathering data and gathering information, making sure we’re dealing with fact-based information.”
The council will be led by Michael Teague, the state’s secretary of energy and environment.
“It very intentionally is not a task force. It’s not a working group. Right now it’s about coordinating the different efforts. There is so much going on,” Teague said. “This is about bringing all these folks together to synchronize what they’re doing.”
The coordinating council will include input from public sector groups like the Oklahoma Geologic Survey, the Corporation Commission, and the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board; research institutions including the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University; industry groups like the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association; and state legislators.
“Oklahoma has always had seismic activity,” Fallin said. “But the reality is, we are seeing more earthquakes today than we did several decades ago. It’s important we study this issue and have sound science that can inform decisions made in both the public and private sector.”
The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma measuring magnitude 3.0 or greater has jumped from an average of less than five a year to about 40 a year for the past five years, and more than 200 in 2014, according to the Oklahoma Geological Survey.
Some researchers have attributed the increased activity to natural causes. Others have pointed largely to the oil and natural gas industry, specifically at its practice of disposing of produced water by pumping it deep underground.
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