A new study published in Science magazine has deemed fracking injection wells to be the cause of the dramatic increase in seismic activity in Oklahoma. In the past five years, Oklahoma has experienced over 2,500 earthquakes, causing it to surpass California and become the most seismically active state in the country.
As recently as 2003, Oklahoma was ranked number 17 in the country for earthquakes. While the industry giants wait around for findings and continue to question science, Oklahoma and other states are subjected to the harmful effects of fracking and wastewater injection.
Fracking has been previously linked to earthquake activity in other states across the country. However, the practice of injecting fracking wastewater into underground disposal wells is presenting a bigger problem than fracking itself. The large amount of wastewater that is pumped into the wells puts stress on the fault lines, which has most likely caused the increase of earthquakes up to 22 miles away from the injection site.
Geophysicist Justin Rubinstein recently told Bloomberg News, “There’s a couple of good examples where I think it’s pretty clear that if you turn off the well the earthquakes stop. It’s a pretty strong correlation.”
This recent increase of earthquakes in areas with frequent gas and oil drilling has prompted many questions and the need for more research. For the first time in history, the U.S. Geological Survey plans to include and analyze man-made quakes on federal maps that influence building codes and public policy. It has been said that the danger may be highest in the midwestern and southwestern U.S. because these are the areas that have yet to be extensively mapped compared to states with more rampant and naturally occurring seismic activity.
So now that the United States has seen people get tremendously ill, set their tap water on fire, and experience an appalling increase in seismic activity, what else will it take to halt fracking?
Chandler is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.