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Scientists: 2,500 Earthquakes in Oklahoma Linked to Fracking

July 8, 2014

In this Nov, 6, 2011 photo, Chad Devereaux examines bricks that fell from three sides of his in-laws home in Sparks, Okla., following two earthquakes that hit the area in less than 24 hours. A study published Thursday, July 3, 2014 by the journal Science explains how just four wells forcing massive amounts of drilling wastewater into the ground are probably causing quakes in Oklahoma.

In this Nov, 6, 2011 photo, Chad Devereaux examines bricks that fell from three sides of his in-laws home in Sparks, Okla., following two earthquakes that hit the area in less than 24 hours. A study published Thursday by the journal Science explains how just four wells forcing massive amounts of drilling wastewater into the ground are probably causing quakes in Oklahoma.

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/SUE OGROCKI

Suddenly, the good old days — you know, when Arkansas had only had about 900 earthquakes linked to the re-injection of fracking wastewater — seem almost nostalgic, as the number of quakes, the amount of damage, the number of states impacted, and the scientific studies keep growing.

Think Progress reported yesterday, July 7th, 2014:

More than 2,500 small earthquakes have hit Oklahoma in the past five years, and nearly all of them can be linked to the process of drilling for oil and gas, according to a recent study published in the journal Science.

The study, led by Cornell University geophysics professor Katie Keranen, is the latest of many scientific studies showing a probable connection between earthquakes and drilling-related activity across the country. Specifically, the quakes are linked not to the fuel extraction itself, but to a process called “wastewater injection,” in which companies take the leftover water used to frack wells and inject it deep into the ground.

Scientists increasingly believe that the large amount of water that is injected into the ground after a well is fracked can change the state of stress on existing fault lines to the point of failure, causing earthquakes. Keranen’s study analyzed four prolific wastewater disposal wells in southeast Oklahoma City, which collectively inject approximately four million barrels of wastewater into the ground each month.

The research showed that fluid from those wells were migrating along fault lines for miles, and Keranen’s team determined the migration was likely responsible for earthquakes occurring as far as 22 miles away.

The link between earthquakes and wastewater injection from fracking is not definitive. As Jennifer Dlouhy in Fuel Fix notes, the research lacks necessary data on sub-surface pressure, which is rarely accessible.

However, Oklahoma is not the only place in America that has seen an unprecedented increase in small- to medium-sized earthquakes at the same time that fracking has increased in the area. A sharp increase in earthquakes corresponding with increased fracking activity has been seen in OhioArkansasTexas, and Kansas.

The quakes have been relatively small for now, but some scientists have warned that seismic activity stands to get stronger and more dangerous as fracking increases.

“I think ultimately, as fluids propagate and cover a larger space, the likelihood that it could find a larger fault and generate larger seismic events goes up,” Western University earth sciences professor Gail Atkinson said at a Seismological Society of America conference in May.

Read the full story here: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/07/07/3456931/oklahoma-frackquakes/.

And don’t forget to take action to stop fracked gas exports, stop the shale oil trains, and generally step it up. Because the powers that be are not hearing us yet. After “frackquakes,” we should not have to invent one more word to describe this extraordinary damage.

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