Earthquakes caused by fracking have increased dramatically in the central and eastern U.S., according to a just-released study. The L.A. Times reported on April 23, 2015 that for the first time, the “U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has unveiled a map of earthquakes thought to be triggered by human activity in the eastern and central United States.”
Oklahoma is NOT OK
Oklahoma is the hardest hit state, according to the USGS study. Last year, Oklahoma had more earthquakes at magnitude 3 or higher than California, a huge increase from past years.
States Fracked and Cracked
Seismic activity near the heavily-fracked Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area has also increased dramatically. Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and Ohio have likewise all suffered more frequent earthquakes in the last year.
The earthquaked areas are all located “near deep fluid injection wells or other industrial activities capable of inducing earthquakes,” according to the LA Times.
Chief of the USGS’ National Seismic Hazard Project, Mark Petersen, admitted the pattern of increased quakes is unsettling: “These earthquakes are occurring at a higher rate than ever before, and pose a much greater risk and threat to people living nearby.”
One hopes that the release of the map published in the Times will bring officials to terms with the idea that wastewater disposal following oil and gas extraction is causing more earthquakes. Hydraulic fracturing, as most residents of places such as Fort Worth and Arlington,Texas are well aware, involves shooting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to extract oil and natural gas. The resulting wastewater is often forced underground as well, but can trigger earthquakes on faults that haven’t moved in a very long time.
The Oklahoma Geological Survey said the sharp rise in quakes in that state is “very unlikely to represent a naturally occurring process,” since they are occurring over the same area that saw a huge jump in wastewater disposal in the last several years.
The seismicity rate in 2013 was 70 times greater than the background seismicity rate observed in Oklahoma prior to 2008, state officials said. That was the year the fracking boom really hit the state.
Human-induced earthquakes have troubled scientists for the threat they pose to public safety. They have also become larger. A magnitude 5.6 earthquake believed to have been caused by wastewater injection hit near Prague, Okla., in 2011, injured two people and destroyed 14 homes. Also that year, a 5.3 earthquake rumbled Colorado near the town of Trinidad near the New Mexico border; the USGS said that quake was also triggered by wastewater injection.
History suggests that even larger earthquakes could be in store. In Oklahoma there was an earthquake of about magnitude 7 about 1,300 years ago, according to USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth, who said past geophysical history is a guide to the future.
Scientists have known since the 1960s that injecting chemical-waste fluid can trigger seismic activity, as was shown then by a Denver Basin study published in the journal ‘Science.’
Junk Science to the Rescue
It would be reasonable to expect that such information might temper the madcap adventure to poison, frack and crack the earth further; so you can probably expect no such tempering. If the USGS makes any more noise about earthquakes caused by fracking, look for junk science paid for by frackers to come to the rescue to explain to us all why earthquakes are beneficial for the earth. Or maybe frackers will lobby to abolish to the USGS like drug companies have to dissolve the FDA. Shy of the city of Dallas being swallowed hole by a yawning gap from an earthquake and eating a million or so people, it’s unlikely anything will change for frackers destroying the air we breathe and the water we drink anytime soon. Have a nice day.