Oklahoma earthquake felt in several U.S. states, as oil wells draw scrutiny

The Wall Street Journal reports: A 5.6-magnitude earthquake rattled Oklahoma on Saturday, damaging buildings and tying for the strongest temblor ever recorded in the state, which has experienced a rash of earthquake activity in the past decade that U.S. seismologists have tied to the underground disposal of wastewater from oil and gas drilling.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said via Twitter on Saturday afternoon that state regulators were contacting operators of 37 disposal wells in a 500-square-mile area and asking them to shut down following the quake.

The shutdown order is the latest action the commission has taken against the oil and gas industry since 2013, when it asked some wastewater-well owners to reduce disposal volumes, he said. Since then, the commission has taken action against around 700 Arbuckle wells. There are about 4,000 wastewater wells across the state, he said.

Oklahoma has a history of seismic activity, and earthquakes in the state aren’t unheard of. But it has stepped up regulation of the wastewater injection wells after seeing a dramatic increase in seismic activity over the past decade. In 2015 the USGS recorded 2,500 quakes with a magnitude of 2.5 or higher in the state, up from just three in 2005. [Continue reading…]

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