“It’s important to understand that it’s not the fracking process that causes these earthquakes,” said Bill Leith, the earthquake hazards program coordinator with the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Va., who labels the quake swarm affecting central Oklahoma as “unusual.” “During the production from oil and gas activities, there’s a lot of wastewater that’s generated, and it is that reinjection into rock formations” that could trigger some quakes.
The energy industry has repeatedly denied that the method is to blame for the increase in seismic activity.
“The link between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes has been exaggerated and distorted by dramatic media headlines,” said Julia Bell, a spokeswoman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, a Washington-based group that represents thousands of oil and natural gas producers. “Experts have repeatedly asserted that the energy released from hydraulic fracturing is equivalent to a gallon of milk hitting the floor from a kitchen counter.”
Some residents in Prague, like Joe and Mary Reneau, whose two-story brick home was heavily damaged after the 2011 quake, don’t appear to be too alarmed about the USGS findings, even though some of her more paranoid neighbors now phone the couple up every time their ground or house sways after a minor quake.
“What is it Mother always said? ‘Don’t go borrowing trouble,”’ 70-year-old Mary Reneau said. “In other words, don’t go worrying about something that may not even happen.”
The Reneaus, who had earthquake insurance, rebuilt their house nearly from the studs up, to the tune of the $209,000 their policy paid out. But even with the 33 steel piers now reinforcing their home, the earthquakes that have struck since have triggered hairline cracks in the concrete driveway and some of the brickwork on the back patio and have ever-so-slightly pulled the kitchen cabinets away from the ceiling.