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Does fracking risk earthquakes?

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By John Bartlit


Slippery slope” is an all-purpose image. People use it to damn the havoc that others might set in motion.
Or it might depict the kind of “slippery slope” that lets the Earth’s tectonic plates slip along fault lines to start earthquakes.
Either image fits a public rift that is in the news out of Oklahoma. A current snarl in the quest for oil involves earthquake risk.
For many years, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has helped produce more oil and gas in Oklahoma. More and more fracking produces more and more oil and gas.
In recent years, more small earthquakes also have occurred in Oklahoma.
Does the fracking trigger the small earthquakes? Statistically speaking, the answer appears to be yes.
Oklahoma always had Earth tremors, averaging about 50 per year, almost all of them minor. In the past three years, the state has had thousands of quakes, with more than 2,600 in 2013.
Most of the quakes were too slight to be felt, but a few damaged a few houses and one injured two people.
Actually, the data say that wells for disposing of wastewater from fracking may relate to quakes more than fracking itself. Lands around disposal wells have had jiggles following strong, distant earthquakes.