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Geologist: History shows Oklahoma earthquakes not new phenomenon

The earthquake swarm shaking Oklahoma right now seems to be similar to one that affected state residents more than 60 years ago, according to a geologist at Continental Resources Inc.
By Jay F. Marks, Business Writer Published: June 27, 2014
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Glen Brown is passionate about geology.

So passionate that he started poring over U.S. Geological Service earthquake data while he was on vacation in Florida six months ago.

Brown’s studies yielded what he called some surprising information.

Brown, who is vice president of geology at Continental Resources Inc., said he discovered evidence that Oklahoma’s rising number of earthquakes isn’t as unprecedented as most people believe.

Brown found a similar earthquake outbreak in the 1950s, when Oklahoma did not have equipment to properly measure seismic activity.

He also said those quakes may have been related to activity around the world, noting a similar spike in massive earthquakes worldwide since 2002.

Brown’s theory isn’t new to Austin Holland, a research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, who has been studying Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm.

“I have heard similar arguments,” he said. “When I say unprecedented, I mean never observed before by humans in an intraplate setting world-wide. That doesn’t mean that in the geologic past sequences like this have not occurred.

“There are number of times in the historic past before we had seismic monitoring that we had seismicity clusters, but none of these upticks in seismic activity even come close to comparing to what we see today.

“I respect the work they are doing, but certainly feel that it is not the whole story.”

Some researchers have linked earthquakes in oil and natural gas-producing states to wastewater disposal wells, leading many central Oklahoma residents at a town hall meeting in Edmond on Thursday to call for a moratorium on them.

Regulators said such unilateral action is not allowed under state law, while researchers like Holland contend additional data from operating injection wells will help provide answers about Oklahoma’s earthquakes.

New rules also will allow the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to prevent operators from setting up disposal wells near faults that have produced earthquakes.

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