WASHINGTON — Two House Democrats called Wednesday for a hearing on whether earthquakes in Oklahoma and other states are being caused by activities related to hydraulic fracturing.
Reps. Peter DeFazio, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, and Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said the two panels should hold a joint hearing to study the increase of seismic activity in areas that had previously been inactive and “the potential regulatory gaps in current law that put people and property at risk from man-made earthquakes.”
In a letter to the Republicans who control the committees, the lawmakers said, “The tremendous boom in U.S. oil and natural gas production over the past several years has been the result of the expanded use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, techniques that generate large quantities of wastewater, which is often disposed of through underground injection.”
A news release from the Democrats says the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey have indicated that “the injection of wastewater generated from oil and gas activities, such as fracking, may be a potential contributing factor to the over-tenfold increase in earthquake frequency in Oklahoma since 2009.”
The release states, “Independent peer-reviewed work has also identified a link between underground fluid injection and the largest earthquake ever recorded in the state of Oklahoma — a magnitude 5.7 quake in November 2011 that resulted in two injuries and significant property damage.”
Austin Holland, a seismologist at the Oklahoma Geological Survey and author of a recent report on seismic activity in Love County, told The Oklahoman in October that it is still unclear why the state has experienced a significant increase in seismic activity over the past four years.
“There are researchers that say all of the earthquakes we've had recently have to be due to oil and gas injection,'' Holland said.
“I don't think it can be that simple. I don't think we can explain it all through changes in our oil and gas activity or that somehow we've hit the tipping point for the state. It's an interesting question and something I spend a lot of time thinking about.”