If you live in Oklahoma you may have already seen this document. It’s entitled Fast Facts on Earthquake Insurance. It is provided for free by the Office of Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. I was unaware of Mr. Doak and his work (I don’t live in Oklahoma.), but after reading his press releases recommending that residents of the state buy earthquake insurance and how to get the best deal while avoiding being scammed – I am impressed with the man. He makes good sense.
But I write about Business Ethics and while insurance sometimes has business ethics elements, my focus here is on fracking.
Last spring, the US Geological Survey (USGS) issued a report declaring that a spate of earthquakes over seven years were man-made, triggered by drilling for oil and gas. Dumping toxic wastewater from the drilling process destabilized faults in the bedrock, according to the report, causing more problems than the high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals, or hydraulic fracturing, that is known colloquially as fracking.
The necessity of the citizens of the State of Oklahoma to buy earthquake insurance is almost totally man-made. These are induced earthquakes.
There is an injustice here that bothers me. You see part of the cost of hydraulic fracking is the necessity of disposing of the waste water, and the industry has solved this by injecting it deep into the earth. And this causes earthquakes, lots of earthquakes. (Here’s another little quote:)
Before fracking Oklahomans experienced a couple of earthquakes a year on average and last year they had 842.
So, the industry saves itself a great deal of money by disposing of the waste water in an earthquake producing fashion while citizens of the state bear the brunt of the damage. That strikes me as unfair. The industry makes billions while the citizens of the State live on ground that is becoming more and more unsteady and dangerous.
In other words, the industry shifted the cost of their operation from themselves to the citizens in the form of earthquake damage and such necessary changes as the having to buy earthquake insurance.
And there is one further thing that bothers me.
Someone is going to die. It is inevitable. You shake the ground and buildings collapse and burn. Someone is going to die.
That’s not fair either.
In the past industries saved money by polluting the air and water instead of safely disposing of their waste products. Isn’t this just the same thing in a different format? Instead of talking about air, instead of talking about the water, we’re talking about the integrity of the earth itself.