As Oklahoma AG Heads to EPA, Grijalva Introduces “Preventing Preventable Earthquakes Act” to Prompt Fracking Standards

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today introduced the “Preventing Preventable Earthquakes Act,” which directs federal or state officials to prevent manmade earthquakes of the kind that has plagued Oklahoma in recent years. The bill would ensure that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whose deep ties to the oil and gas industry have already received widespread coverage, would address the issue as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump administration – a step he refused to take as attorney general.

The bill does not yet have a bill number. The language is available at http://bit.ly/2ggcqF3.

Manmade earthquakes in Oklahoma have become so big and unavoidable that 60 Minutes aired a feature on the issue earlier this year, which noted that while there were an average of two earthquakes a year in Oklahoma of magnitude 3 or greater before 2009, there were 907 last year. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has declared the earthquakes largely a consequence of fracking and the disposal of fracking-related waste fluid around the state, which Pruitt and Gov. Mary Fallin were notably slow to address.

The risks in Oklahoma are especially acute because of the frequency of earthquakes near the town of Cushing, which is one of the country’s most heavily trafficked oil pipeline hubs and contains approximately 13 percent of the nation’s crude storage capacity. The Cushing facilities are not designed to withstand strong earthquakes, and even a single major quake could lead to devastating economic and environmental consequences.

Grijalva’s bill, based on data from the USGS and the Oklahoma Geological Survey on the cause and frequency of earthquakes in Oklahoma and surrounding states, requires the EPA – or states with water enforcement authority – to control underground wastewater injection to prevent earthquakes that are preventable. The Preventing Preventable Earthquakes Act allows states to build on the successes in states like Ohio and Arkansas, which have better controlled their wastewater injection and have seen a resultant drop in earthquake intensity and frequency.

“This bill just says environmental officials should prevent earthquakes they can prevent,” Grijalva said. “It’s that simple. Anyone, including Scott Pruitt, who wants to argue against that goal with a landowner, a town resident or a family should be ready to flunk the straight face test.”

Grijalva expects to reintroduce the bill early in 2017 and make the effort a priority in the 115th Congress.

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