GOOD

Man-Made Earthquakes Aren’t Just Real—They’re Officially An Insurance Risk

Thanks to fracking, Scott Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma endures about two quakes a day. Insurance companies want customers to pony up

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons (cc)

Before Trump picked him to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt served as Oklahoma’s attorney general from 2011 until 2017. Over the course of his controversial tenure, an epidemic of earthquakes emerged. Though the Sooner state is “lousy with fault lines,” these quakes weren’t exactly the natural ground-rumblers my colleagues might experience in GOOD’s Los Angeles offices. Instead, nearly all of this seismic activity has been caused by the deep underground injection of salty wastewater, a troublesome byproduct of hydraulic fracturing—otherwise known as fracking for oil and natural gas.


According to the U.S. Geological Survey, prior to 2009, when oil and gas fracking in Oklahoma and neighboring states really started to boom, Oklahoma experienced roughly two earthquakes a year. Now, the state sees as many as two or three earthquakes each day, leaping from an annual average of 99 between 2009-2013 to 585 in 2014. By 2015, the state endured 887 earthquakes, including 30 that topped 4.0 on the Richter scale.

Graph courtesy the U.S. Geological Survey.

The oil and gas industry has tried to dismiss these “induced” tremors as minor, sowing doubt about their causation. But the national USGS as well as Oklahoma’s own Geological Survey have since made it clear that oil and gas wastewater caused these quakes. And last week, for the first time ever, the insurance industry made it clear that these earthquakes are a serious economic threat.

On Thursday, RMS, the risk management analyst for the insurance industry, released models factoring “induced” (or manmade) earthquake risk, intended to assist companies in setting appropriate insurance premiums.

Image via Twitter / U.S. Geological Survey.

Buried in its otherwise technical press release is this stunner (emphasis mine):

The model now includes induced seismicity, making it the first available tool on the market for analyzing property risks from man-made earthquakes across Oklahoma, Kansas, Ohio, Arkansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Alabama. This functionality will allow clients of RMS to consider risks from earthquakes linked to oil and gas extraction.

The economic impact may run in the billions, according to this RMS blog post previewing the new model:

As for Oklahoma, the situation is becoming critical as the seismic activity shows no signs of stopping: A swarm of induced earthquakes has erupted beneath the largest U.S. inland oil storage depot at Cushing, and in September 2016 there was a moment magnitude 5.8 earthquake located eight miles from the town of Pawnee—which caused serious damage to buildings. Were a magnitude 6+ earthquake to hit near Edmond (outside Oklahoma City) our modeling shows it could cause billions of dollars of damage.

Tally this up as yet another real economic cost of America’s unrestrained pursuit of energy dominance, on top of the myriad of environmental, health, and social costs.

Articles
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via ICE / Flickr

The Connors family, two coupes from the United Kingdom, one with a three-month old baby and the other with twin two-year-olds, were on vacation in Canada when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) turned their holiday into a 12-plus day-long nightmare.

On October 3, the family was driving near the U.S.-Canada border in British Columbia when an animal veered into the road, forcing them to make an unexpected detour.

The family accidentally crossed into the United States where they were detained by ICE officials in what would become "the scariest experience of our lives," according to a complaint filed with the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.

Keep Reading Show less
Travel
via Andi-Graf / Pixabay

The old saying goes something like, "Possessions don't make you happy." A more dire version is, "What you own, ends up owning you."

Are these old adages true or just the empty words of ancient party-poopers challenging you not to buy an iPhone 11? According to a new study of 968 young adults by the University of Arizona, being materialistic only brings us misery.

The study examined how engaging in pro-environmental behaviors affects the well-being of millenials. The study found two ways in which they modify their behaviors to help the environment: they either reduce what they consume or purchase green items.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture