Earthquake increase in Oklahoma

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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 10/25/2013 9:20 pm Published: 10/25/2013 8:56 pm

Earthquakes have now become normal in Oklahoma, with small quakes coming every few weeks.

This certainly wasn't always the case. The U.S. Geological Survey is investigating whether the oil and gas industry is causing the increase in quakes.

FOX23 talked to an expert.

"For about 35 years up until 2008, Oklahoma had a total of around 100 earthquakes. according to this report. We've had twice that many in the past five years," said Dr. Bryan Tapp.

FOX23 talked with an expert at Tulsa University who says it's still too early to tell if all the wastewater injection the oil and gas industry does has caused the increase or if it's just a natural coincidence.

"(It's a) very, very dangerous thing to do, to say that it is definitively related to one or the other," Tapp said.

Tapp heads up the Geosciences Department at TU. He explains it's been proven that fracking and wastewater injection has caused earthquake swarms in other parts of the country, but he's not sure if that's the case here.

"It is easy to make the assumption that it must be associated with oil field activity, but that begs a lot of information that we just do not have. It could very well be natural," he said.

Tapp said it's important to prove claims before we react to them and that's exactly what he and other scientists are trying to do.

"We have to examine what is in the subsurface, what is the fault geometry, what is the injection history, before we can make any sort of causal linkage," he said.

If it's eventually proven that the oil and gas industry are causing earthquakes, he said the drilling doesn't have to stop completely.

"I think if in that circumstance, then the corporation commission, the state survey will work with the operators to find out what are the best practices to avoid these issues," Tapp said.

Tapp said he thinks we're still years away from figuring out exactly what's causing the earthquakes.

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