The geologically stable state of Oklahoma has experienced over 500 measurable earthquakes in 2014, far and away already a record for the state and it is February. Why? Fracking, duh.
Scientists have drawn links between earthquakes and wastewater injection wells used for oil and gas production, including fracking. Researchers say the toxic wastewater, stored thousands of feet underground, increases friction along fault lines, which can trigger earthquakes. The ongoing fracking boom has led to a growth in national demand for disposal wells, according to Bloomberg.
Nicholas van der Elst, a post-doctorate research fellow at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, says the “most reasonable hypothesis” to explain Oklahoma’s spike in earthquakes is they’ve been triggered by injection wells used for oil and gas production. “The burden of proof is on well operators to prove that the earthquakes are not caused by their wells,” van der Elst told The Nation.
A 2011 study, published in the journal Geology, found that liquid injection triggered a sequence of earthquakes in Oklahoma, including the largest quake ever recorded in the state, which injured two people and destroyed 14 homes. StateImpact reports that Oklahoma is home to more than 4,400 disposal wells. (The website is a great resource on this issue.) Researchers have also found connections between injection wells and earthquakes in Arkansas, Colorado, Texas and Ohio.
But you know, let’s just continue down this path of endless fracking without making sure it is actually safe.