The Slatest

Oklahoma Acknowledges Oil and Gas Drilling Likely Linked to Explosion in Earthquakes

Pump jacks and wells near McKittrick, California.  

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Last year, Oklahoma recorded 585 earthquakes in the state with a magnitude of three or higher. In 2013, there were 109; before 2008, Oklahoma averaged two earthquakes of that size a year. After years of ignoring growing scientific evidence that the increase in seismic activity was linked to the disposal of wastewater from oil and gas drilling via injection below the surface, on Tuesday, the state government acknowledged the connection between the two.

“The [Oklahoma Geological Survey] considers it very likely that the majority of recent earthquakes, particularly those in central and north-central Oklahoma, are triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells,” the OGS said in a statement. “The statement is the survey’s strongest since it began looking into the source of the state’s earthquake swarm,” according to the Associated Press.

The state government seemed to take the latest round of data as a growing consensus and created a website that explains the science behind the problem. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin also took a different tone on Tuesday. “As recently as last fall, Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, indicated that suggestions of a relationship between oil and gas activity and seismicity were speculation, and that more study was needed,” the New York Times reports. “In a news release issued Tuesday, Ms. Fallin called the Geological Survey’s endorsement of that relationship significant, and said the state was dealing with the problem.”