Local News

Oklahoma earthquakes: Is fracking to blame?

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A study published in a science magazine strengthens the link between fracking and an increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma.

An excerpt from the abstract explains the scientists' findings: "Subsurface pressure data required to unequivocally link earthquakes to injection are rarely accessible. Here we use seismicity and hydrogeological models to show that fluid migration from high-rate disposal wells in Oklahoma is potentially responsible for the largest swarm."

Fracking has been a hot topic in Colorado. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, recovers natural gas buried deep inside the earth. 

Groups are out trying to collect enough signatures to put an issue on the November ballot, giving cities and counties the ability to ban fracking.

Geophysicist Rob Williams said this new study linking fracking to earthquakes is a leap.

"Not all the wastewater that's produced comes from fracking," said Williams.

He said other methods of getting oil and gas also require wastewater to be pumped back into the ground.

"When they pull that water out, they extract the oil and then they need to get rid of the water, and there is a lot of water," said Williams.

Steve Nowak will never forget San Francisco's massive earthquake that struck in October of 1989.

The quake stopped the World Series and took down part of the Bay Bridge.

"It only lasted about six seconds, but it's six seconds of getting slammed with the earth," said Nowak.

Nowak says he's worried about earthquakes and fracking.

"That's just saying, 'Oh an earthquake isn't a big deal, we would rather have the oil from the shale.  Really?" said Nowak.

Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association offered this response to the new study:

"Disposal wells have been used in Oklahoma for more than half a century and have met and even exceeded current disposal volumes during that time. Because crude oil and natural gas is produced in 70 of Oklahoma's 77 counties, any seismic activity within the state is likely to occur near oil and natural gas activity. We have also seen increased seismic activity in North America, including Idaho, Virginia, Arizona and northern Mexico where dewatering projects and unconventional oil and gas development are nonexistent."

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources recently stopped a fracking operation in Weld County for 20 days to study the relationship between the well and seismic activity in the area.


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