Skip to Content
Everything Else

Shhhhhh… The USGS knows what’s causing earthquakes


Last week, the USGS confirmed what logical, reasonable people who don't have an agenda to protect the energy industry have suspected for a few years: fluid injection wells are the cause of our state's earthquake outbreak.

Via a USGS press release:

A paper published today in Science provides a case for increasing transparency and data collection to enable strategies for mitigating the effects of human-induced earthquakes caused by wastewater injection associated with oil and gas production in the United States. The paper is the result of a series of workshops led by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with the University of Colorado, Oklahoma Geological Survey and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, suggests that it is possible to reduce the hazard of induced seismicity through management of injection activities.

Large areas of the United States that used to experience few or no earthquakes have, in recent years, experienced a remarkable increase in earthquake activity that has caused considerable public concern as well as damage to structures. This rise in seismic activity, especially in the central United States, is not the result of natural processes.

Instead, the increased seismicity is due to fluid injection associated with new technologies that enable the extraction of oil and gas from previously unproductive reservoirs. These modern extraction techniques result in large quantities of wastewater produced along with the oil and gas. The disposal of this wastewater by deep injection occasionally results in earthquakes that are large enough to be felt, and sometimes damaging. Deep injection of wastewater is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in detected earthquakes and the corresponding increase in seismic hazard in the central U.S.

“The science of induced earthquakes is ready for application, and a main goal of our study was to motivate more cooperation among the stakeholders — including the energy resources industry, government agencies, the earth science community, and the public at large — for the common purpose of reducing the consequences of earthquakes induced by fluid injection,” said coauthor Dr. William Ellsworth, a USGS geophysicist.

Wow, that's shocking. The USGS reported that fluid injection is behind the Oklahoma earthquake epidemic. That goes directly against the denial, doubt-casting, "We don't really know what's causing the earthquakes!" message the industry has taken for the past few years. For example, remember last summer when the Vice President of Geology for Continental gave a non-peer reviewed speech about the outbreak?

Via News 9:

At a luncheon for the Oklahoma City Geological Society, Continental Resources presented what it calls independent stats that show this sting of earthquakes is not from the oil industry.

"There's a hysteria that needs to be brought back to reality that these are light and will not cause any harm," Vice President of Geology for Continental Resources Glen Brown said.

Brown says any earthquakes below 4.0 are insignificant.

He made several points:

- There's a remote chance fracking creates seismic activity.- A majority of wells are not located near recorded earthquakes.- There is a nearly 10,000 ft. difference between depths of earthquakes and depths of wells.- Seismic activity in Mexico.

So who are you going to believe? The U.S. Geological Survey and a diverse mix of university scientists, or an oil executive for a NYSE company that's lead the current fracking boom? I didn't take any AP history classes in high school, but you have to go with the oil executive, right? Unlike shady scientists, they always have the public's best interests in mind.

In all seriousness, with the USGS report now being made public the energy industry obviously has to change their tone. They can't continue to play dumb and cast doubt on the cause of earthquakes when facing so much evidence. That only works for global warming.

Here's what Kim Hatfield, with the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, said when KFOR interviewed him about the USGS findings....

“I don’t think (the paper) is particularly helpful because basically, it says we’ve come to a conclusion, but we don’t have the science to back it up,” Hatfield said. “Oklahoma has been very geologically active over time, and that’s one of the reasons we have so many oil and gas traps.”

And facepalm...

Yep, Kim Hatfield is accusing the USGS and university scientists of coming up with a conclusion without having the science to back it up. Maybe he's getting them confused with himself. Via a News 9 story from last May...

Geologists and Oil and Gas regulators from several states are teaming up with Oklahoma agencies to study earthquakes and their connection to injection wells. The coalition recently met for the first time.

The coalition is called "States First," and its goal is to proactively research recent earthquakes and injection wells in multiple states to find common ground...

Kim Hatfield of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association says the joint-research will show there are multiple reasons behind the uptick in earthquakes.

"Now we have an increase in activity, it's easy to say ‘Oh well, that must be the oil business' because it happened near an oil field well we produce oil in 70 of 77 counties, so it's hard to do anything in Oklahoma that's not near an oilfield," said Kim Hatfield, OIPA Regulatory Chair.


I guess it's good that the word on earthquake causes is finally getting out there. Between this report and the recent Tulsa World exposé, hopefully more Oklahomans are aware of the cause. Now we all get to sit back and watch our politicians who are bought and paid for by the energy industry do nothing about it.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter