A state regulatory agency worked as it should when it indefinitely shut down a well completion project following a swarm of earthquakes near Quinton.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission suspended operations of Houston-based Trinity Resources following a 3.7 magnitude earthquake early Sunday morning.
The earthquake was the most recent of 37 earthquakes registering 2.0 magnitude or higher near Quinton since July 1, according to the United States Geological Society. It was also the most violent — with reports of the quake being felt across eastern Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas.
An escalating scale determines USGS response to earthquakes near the sites of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking. Fracking is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc., to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas.
The practice is controversial because there appears to be a connection between fracking and earthquakes. For example, the “earthquake swarm” stopped after the fracking operation was suspended this week.
Shutting down gas or oil wells has a direct impact on Oklahoma’s economy. Many jobs depend on the oil and gas industry here. Anybody who has lived here very long knows the state’s economy will rise and dip relative to the fortunes of the oil and gas industry.
Decline in the oil and gas industry tends to show up in many places in the state’s budget. During slowdowns, it is difficult to grow teachers’ salaries, for example.
The safety of the state’s residents are at stake, too.
There have been reports of earthquake damage around the state since earthquakes began occurring more often and at a higher seismic activity rating in recent years.
The seismic activity near Quinton is under investigation, said Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesperson Matt Skinner.
“After the 3.7 event on Sunday, the operator was directed to stop all operations indefinitely,” Skinner said. “… Just what happens next has yet to be determined.”
It would be a good thing for the Oklahoma economy to resume operations at this site. But the OCC needs to be sure that no additional earthquakes will occur when operations resume.