OKLAHOMA CITY —
“These earthquakes had absolutely nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing, we can say that with confidence,” said Austin Holland, a research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, which was not involved in the study. “They may be related to wastewater disposal, but we don’t know. It’s a challenge to separate these things when we can’t see inside the earth.”
Until 2009, Oklahoma averaged about 50 small earthquakes a year. The U.S. Geological Survey says the state is now the most second most-active seismically, behind California. It’s had 116 earthquakes recorded in the last week alone, according to the Oklahoma Geological Society.
Since the infamous New Madrid quakes of 1811-12, the Prague temblor was the second-strongest east of the Rocky Mountains, behind the 5.8-magnitude quake in Virginia that damaged the Washington Monument in 2011.
Until the set of Nov. 5, 2011, quakes, Oklahoma’s last magnitude 5.0 temblor occurred in 1952.
Officials from the Geological Survey say they’re open to the idea that human actions may have caused the increase, but that it could also be completely natural — they just don’t have enough conclusive evidence.
Brian Woodward, the vice president of regulatory affairs for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, said the industry was working with researchers but the recent increase in earthquake activity cannot necessarily be blamed on the state’s top industry.
“Granted, we’ve not seen this level of seismic activity in Oklahoma in the last 60 to 80 years and before that we don’t have a record. It causes us all concern, but the rush to correlate this activity with our industry is something we don’t believe is necessarily fair,” he said.
More property owners in Oklahoma are purchasing earthquake insurance. State Farm Insurance spokesman Jim Camoriano said 5.5 of the company’s Oklahoma policyholders were covered prior to the Prague quake, but that the number jumped to 10 percent within two months. Now it’s 16 percent, he said.
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