The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

July 9, 2014

Promptly find a prudent middle ground on injection wells

ENID, Okla. — Four wells injecting massive amounts of drilling wastewater into the earth probably are shaking up our great state, according to a new study published by the journal Science.

The study claims they have triggered over 100 small to medium earthquakes during the past five years.

On a daily basis, those wells pump more than 5 million gallons of water into rock formations, creating pressure that “has to go somewhere,” study lead author Cornell University seismologist Katie Keranen told The Associated Press.

Let’s draw a parallel here.

Decades ago, with many studies, we determined that driving at excessively high speeds on our nation’s highways increased the likelihood of accidents, and some of those would be fatality accidents. So, with the help of numerous engineering studies, we set speed limits appropriate to various circumstances. And we enforce those speed limits.

Speed-lovers claimed they could be safe driving 110 mph. On the other extreme, safety-obsessed people countered that driving was unsafe at any speed.

But with engineering, studies and political involvement, we determined that somewhere between zero and 110 mph was a prudent speed limit, and we’ve enforced it.

So, can we apply that type of logic to reinjection wells related to energy drilling? Somewhere between the reinjection gushers in the study released recently and no fracking — zero reinjection — is a prudent middle ground.

We need energy companies, regulators, university studies and, ultimately, lawmakers to help find that prudent middle ground, and promptly. Regulations can change in the future as we learn more, but we need some better regulation now followed by better research studies.

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