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Edmond earthquake town hall leaves attendees unsatisfied

Residents worried about the spate of earthquakes that have plagued parts of Oklahoma likely got little satisfaction Thursday night at a town hall on the subject, as experts said there is no way to know their cause.
By Jay F. Marks, Business Writer Modified: June 26, 2014 at 10:53 pm •  Published: June 26, 2014
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photo - Residents line up to ask questions Thursday during a town hall meeting on the recent Oklahoma earthquakes at Waterloo Baptist Church in Edmond .  Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman  SARAH PHIPPS - 
SARAH PHIPPS
Residents line up to ask questions Thursday during a town hall meeting on the recent Oklahoma earthquakes at Waterloo Baptist Church in Edmond . Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman SARAH PHIPPS - SARAH PHIPPS

Residents worried about the spate of earthquakes that have plagued parts of the state likely got little satisfaction Thursday night at a town hall on the subject.

Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland said there is no way to know what has caused the unprecedented increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma, although several studies have linked temblors to oil and natural gas activity, particularly wastewater injection wells.

The first question posed during the meeting’s question-and-answer session was why such activity has not been halted, but Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner said state law does not support such a unilateral move.

He said regulators must have legal justification before shutting down an injection well.

Holland said stopping the use of injection wells, which pump water deep underground, would not be recommended from a scientific standpoint because that would rob researchers of valuation data that could help them figure out how to prevent earthquakes.

He also said that would halt production of oil and natural gas, an assertion that drew an angry-sounding rumble from the crowd at Waterloo Road Baptist Church.

Several hundred people overfilled the church’s sanctuary and parking lot.

Dozens of attendees lined up during the event to ask questions, many of which were hostile toward the oil and gas industry.

A large percentage of people in the pews indicated they had been awoken about 12:30 a.m. Thursday by a magnitude 3.5 quake north of Edmond.

“What is happening is frightening,” Skinner said. “I’m not here to put it any other way.”

He said many of the commission’s employees live in areas that have been rattled by earthquakes, so they are trying to address the issue.

“The search for answers is very, very real, and it’s very, very personal,” Skinner said.

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