CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
OKLAHOMA CITY – On Saturday (September 3) Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for Pawnee County due to a magnitude 5.6 earthquake that occurred that morning near the city of Pawnee.
In related news, over the Labor Day weekend members of the Corporation Commission moved to stop wastewater injection well operations in areas outside Osage County but within 725 square miles of the earthquake epicenter.
A post at the Commissioner’s website said the agency’s “Oil and Gas Division (OGCD) is in the process of implementing a mandatory directive to shut down all Arbuckle disposal wells within a 725 square mile area, based on the location of the earthquake that occurred shortly after 7 a.m. on September 3, 2016 near Pawnee. The area includes 211 square miles of Osage County, which is outside of OGCD jurisdiction.
“OGCD is working with the Environmental Protection Agency, which has sole jurisdiction over disposal wells in Osage County. The EPA will determine what action to take in that area.”
Osage County, the state’s largest geographic county in square miles, is within a former reservation area and in what is defined as “Indian Country,” and thus subject to some federal oversight.
The earthquake was felt in multiple states and was the strongest the state has experienced since November 2011 when a magnitude 5.6 earthquake occurred in Lincoln County.
“I’m glad to hear no one was seriously hurt in today’s earthquake and damage appears to be limited. This emergency declaration will start the process to helping individuals, families and businesses impacted by the earthquakes and serves as a precursor to requesting any necessary assistance,” said Fallin.
“I appreciate the quick response by the Department of Emergency Management and Department of Transportation to assess damage of the affected area and to ensure our state highway and turnpike bridges are safe. And I applaud the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the state agency tasked with regulating the oil and gas industry, in taking swift action by ordering all Arbuckle disposal wells within a 725-square mile area of today’s earthquake to shut down and working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has sole jurisdiction over disposal wells in nearby Osage County.
"Information on the earthquake is still being collected," Fallin said, "and will be reviewed by my coordinating council on seismic activity chaired by Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague, as we continue to move forward to make our state safe.”
Fallin and state emergency management officials are asking residents to submit photos of earthquake damage to their homes or businesses through the OK Emergency mobile application. The OK Emergency app is available for Apple, Android and Blackberry devices (https://www.ok.gov/OEM/Programs_&_Services/OKEmergency_App/index.html) as well as any other smartphone, tablet or computer through the mobile site: www.emergency.ok.gov.
Fallin’s executive order allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and preparedness. The declaration also marks a first step toward seeking federal aid should it be necessary.
Under the executive order, the state of emergency lasts for 30 days. Additional counties may be added if needed.
NOTE: Editor Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.