Environmental Justice

Growing Concern About the Link Between Fracking and Earthquakes

 By Winnefred Ann Frolik

On Saturday, September 3 I received a text from my aunt in Nebraska mentioning that she’d felt an earthquake that morning which shook the bed, an experience she described and I quote as “very weird.” This particular earthquake had originated in Oklahoma but its effects were felt in Nebraska, Illinois, and even Texas. It was originally categorized as a 5.6 magnitude earthquake by the US Geological Society but has since been upgraded to a 5.8 making it the strongest earthquake on record in the state.

In all likelihood the earthquake in question was triggered by fracking. Oceans of ink have been spilled over the years as to how C02 emissions are heating up the planet but another way our quenchless thirst for oil is upsetting the natural world is by fracking. Fracking (short for hydraulic fracking) is where high pressure water is pumped into ground to fracture the bedrock and release oil reserves otherwise too small to be worth tapping. Fracking has certainly helped the US produce oil at a record rate, (and probably contributed to the fall in gas prices) but it’s done so at a high cost. Fracking has been incredibly harmful to water supplies here in Pennsylvania; check out all the YouTube videos of people setting their water on fire thanks to methane contamination in local wells. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LBjSXWQRV8

But it’s also becoming patently clear that injecting fracking wastewater (which takes place far beneath the fracking zone) puts pressure on pre-existing fault lines increasing the risk of earthquakes. Oklahoma saw a dramatic spike in earthquakes about five years ago as deep level wastewater disposal became common. While in 2009 no earthquake in Oklahoma was 4.0 or greater, last year thirty were. Indeed there are parts of Southern Kansas and North-Central Oklahoma that rival California in earthquake hazards. Indeed, Oklahoma has actually shut down its oil wells for the time being in response. And when Oklahoma decides to toughen up on oil and gas drilling you know things are getting serious.

Fracking is now considered to be the number one cause of earthquakes in Texas:


And it has even been linked to earthquakes at overseas locations as well:


The global warming crisis alone would be more than enough reason to get serious about renewable energy. But as its becoming horrifyingly obvious the reasons for to the natural world and ourselves posed by our society’s addiction to fossil fuels goes even further than rising temperatures. And as Pennsylvania is a major fracking state this particular issue hits very close to home.

To find out what you can do about it, check out and http://www.marcellusprotest.org/ and http://earthjustice.org/features/pennsylvania-and-fracking


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