It was kind of exciting to post “I survived the Kansas earthquake of Nov. 12, 2014,” on Facebook and Twitter, but it turns out earthquakes are becoming rather common in the Wheat State.
According to Earthquaketrack.com, Kansas has had 48 earthquakes in the past week, 83 in the past month and 370 in the past year as of Thursday. Wednesday’s came from south of Conway Springs and measured 4.8 on the Richter scale — high enough that most people felt it (even some people 140 miles away in Great Bend) and windows rattled, but just below the level where dishes start to break and doors swing open.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center shows fewer Kansas earthquakes — 93 so far this year, ranging in magnitude from 1.3 to 4.3. Nearly all have been in Sumner, Harper and Barber counties, and the number is up from 2013.
So, it’s good to know that Gov. Sam Brownback has already established an Induced Seismicity Task Force, led by the Kansas Geological Survey. The same day as the 4.8-magnitude quake, the governor announced funding for more monitoring equipment in the area of the increased seismic activity.
If human activity such as fracking is inducing earthquakes, we need a plan and we need it soon. The oil industry is important to Kansas, but we’ve always had to balance industry desires against public safety. Great Bend’s own Kansas Oil & Gas Museum has a display that shows the extent of precautionary measures that drillers must take to protect groundwater from contamination. The regulations are expensive and a burden on the business, but are required to protect us all.
Gov. Brownback said of the latest task force efforts, “Public safety is my top priority. We must balance the safety of all Kansans, and consider the impacts to industry.”
So we must. It won’t do to spend 20 years saying maybe the increase in Kansas earthquakes has nothing to do with human activity. We need data, and then we need a plan. Public safety should be every lawmaker’s top priority.
Correction: Governor Kelly issues statewide stay-at-home order effective Monday