Fossil Fuel's Wastewater Creating Earthquake Boom

In Oklahoma, the oil and gas industry have drilled more than 4,000 “disposal wells” designed to hold wastewater produced from the tens of thousands of extraction drilling sites scattered throughout the state.

But as those wells have grown in number and the millions of gallons of wastewater—generated as an inevitable bi-product from the fossil fuel industry—are pumped into the seems of the earth beneath, something else is happening. Earthquakes. And lots of them.

As the New York Times reports Friday:

Though hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is among the many extractive practices now believed to cause earthquakes, Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, told the Times that “disposal wells pose the biggest risk.”

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“Could we be looking at some cumulative tipping point? Yes, that’s absolutely possible,” Dr. Holland said.

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As the Times explains, experts say that wastewater wells are especially pernicious because of their number and size:

Though the disposal of oil and gas wastewater has been ongoing for some time, experts say that the scale and locations of the practice that have changed, mostly because of the boom in oil and gas fracking, which is being done in places with unique underground shale formations.

“People are disposing of fluids in places they haven’t before,” Cliff Frohlich, a University of Texas scientist, told the Times.

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