May 16 Earthquake forum
On May 16, representatives from the Kansas Geological Survey, the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment came to Hutchinson to talk about recent earthquakes originating a few miles outside of Hutchinson.
Depending on who’s doing the reporting, somewhere between 100 people and nearly 200 people came to hear the information and ask questions. I was really happy with both the turnout, the politeness of the crowd and the engagement I saw. If you took the time to come to the forum, Thank you! I appreciate that you care enough about this issue to take time out of your life to be involved.
I’ll map out a few of the key points from the presentation, as well as attach a video of the program recorded by Greg Holmes. There’s some good information in here, and if you’re interested at all, I suggest watching the entire video. If you don’t have that much time – it’s nearly 2 hours long – watch the first part in which the KGS offers up some of the science behind what’s going on.
Before we get to the key points, though, I want to talk about what to do next. As I said at the forum, we received some good information, but that information must be used to develop good policy. I have some ideas, but there are people who know far more about this than I do, and I’d like to get their input. I’d also like to hear what you think ought to be done. I know there’s a school of thought out there that we should simply ban “fracking” but I think that’s pretty unrealistic. We’re too tied to oil and gas currently to make that a viable option – not without undercutting a big part of our economy and drastically influencing gas prices. But I think there is room to develop some sensible policies regarding disposal wells that could lead to a reduction in seismic activity across the state. I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Some of the key points:
- There are several large disposal wells in an area outside of South Hutchinson. The largest wells are Class I wells, which aren’t under pressure. They’ve been in use for a number of years, without causing any problems.
- There is a pressure migration that is pushing northward from Oklahoma and Southern Kansas. The KGS reports that they have seen this pressure increase in the Arbuckle formation (the geological description of the area of deep disposal wells). As this pressure has moved, earthquakes have followed.
- The precise area of the quakes is home to what’s called an echelon fault. This is different than many other faults, and could be why we saw so many earthquakes in such a short time back in March and April. In this structure, the faults are sort of stacked on top of each other.
- Here are some important links if you want more information: Kansas Geological Survey; Kansas Corporation Commission; Kansas Department of Health and Environment; and the United States Geological Survey.
Also, here’s the handout that was provided at the forum. It has some good information as well.
There’s a lot more to understand, and a lot more that could be discussed. But for now, I think it’s best to give everyone a chance to see what the scientists and regulators had to say on the matter. In the future, I hope we’ll be able to use the information to have productive conversations about how to convert information and ideas into effective policy. Thanks again to everyone who came out, and don’t hesitate to offer your thoughts and suggestions.