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‘We can’t get it right,’ Oklahoma legislator speaking out on earthquakes

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OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma legislator is speaking out about the jump in the number of earthquakes in the state, and is citing material that blames the oil and gas industry.

"We feel earthquakes on an almost daily basis," wrote Michael and Sara McMillan, who live five miles southwest of Liberty Lake.

They say the tremors are "emotionally distressing" and say they are damaging their home.

"Over time, our home is being weakened by this phenomenon," the McMillans said.

For the past three years, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has been looking into what is causing the earthquakes.

Residents say those studies are taking too long.

"They said they need more time to study the quakes," said Bill Wietelman, in a letter to Sen. Jerry Ellis. "By the time they finish their study, our houses will have heavy damages."

Wietelman says he has lived in Logan County since 1968 and has never felt earthquakes like there are now.

In a news release, Sen. Ellis cites a study that was published in the journal 'Science' on July 3.

The study concluded the dramatic increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma can likely be attributed to subsurface wastewater disposal wells.

It also said that earthquakes are induced at distances more than 18.6 miles from disposal wells.

Also, the United States Geological Survey reported that a statistical analysis indicated oilfield wastewater injected into the ground is "a likely contributing factor" to the number of earthquakes.

“Earth scientists are as certain that disposal wells can induce earthquakes, as your family doctor is that cigarettes can and do cause cancer,” Bob Jackman, an independent petroleum geologist, insisted.

“If it starts with an ‘e,’ we can’t get it right in Oklahoma: executions, education, and earthquakes,” Sen. Ellis quipped. “Thank God we haven’t had an ebola outbreak.”

More than 3,350 disposal wells have been drilled in Oklahoma, and they accepted nearly 1.09 billion barrels of wastewater, 45.7 billion gallons, from oil and gas production operations in 2012, Corporation Commission ledgers indicate.

In comparison, the total volume of saltwater disposed of in Oklahoma was 844 million barrels in 2007, commission records reflect.

The average oil well in Oklahoma reportedly produces about 10 barrels of saltwater for every barrel of oil.