There were more earthquakes with a magnitude 3.0 or greater in Oklahoma last year than anywhere else in the continental United States. Whereas Oklahoma used to feel one or two tremors a year, it now experiences two to three per day. This spike parallels the state’s boom in shale gas production, and scientists and environmentalists are pointing their fingers at fracking.
In late 2013, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that modern fracking processes could be linked to the massive increase in Oklahoma’s seismic activity since 2009. The combination of fracking and horizontal drilling releases billions of gallons of salty, toxic wastewater, and the current method for getting rid of it is to inject it deep into the earth at high pressure. When these injection channels are located near fault lines, the pressure can set the ground in motion.
Research has also warned that fracking may have been the cause of a magnitude 5.7 quake in November 2011—the largest earthquake ever recorded in Oklahoma, which damaged 14 homes and injured two people. While oil companies and their supporters deny the connection between fracking and earthquakes, the state is getting tougher on permits in the wake of the shakes. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission recently closed a few suspect disposal wells and is scouring new applications with added caution.
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