The Current

What's shaking Oklahoma? Some scientists say the fracking process is triggering earthquakes

Adding to the possible dangers of hydraulic fracturing as a way to recover fuel, two energy companies in Oklahoma face lawsuits -- for allegedly causing earthquakes.
Oklahoma, a place known for its devastating tornados, is now registering more earthquakes than states famous for them. The US Geological Survey has identified part of the fracking process as the likely reason for the earthquakes. It is an issue facing Canada as well - with seismic studies now underway in provinces where fracking is on the increase. So how troubled should people be about shale gas shakes? 

Everyone seems afraid of it ; is it gonna hurt the ground water and hurt other beautiful things. I smile and say come to my beautiful state since 1949 we've been fracking. Over a hundred thousand times we have fracked in Oklahoma.Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma (from 2011)

In June, an earthquake in Oklahoma City measured at 4.2. Perhaps surprisingly, Oklahoma now registers more earthquakes than California. But with no tectonic plates, geophysicists are trying to understand what's shaking the state. Their conclusion - fracking is playing a role.

It's an issue Canada's own federal government scientists are also looking into because of fracking underway in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, the Northwest Territories and New Brunswick, where it's now a big election issue. Nova Scotia has just declared a moratorium on fracking.

In November 2011, the town of Prague was hit by a 5.7 earthquake. It knocked over the chimney at the home of Sandra Ladra. Her lawyer has now filed lawsuits against two Oklahoma energy companies.

Scott Poynter argues the fracking process triggered the quake. He joined us from Little Rock, Arkansas.

We called both companies named in the lawsuit. Spess Oil said it was not interested in speaking with us. And we have not heard back from New Dominion in Oklahoma.

Christian Klose is a research Scientist with NorthWest Research Associates and has studied human-made geohazards for years. His new book is Frack This!: The untold story about earthquakes caused by humans.

Fracking causes minor earthquakes, B.C. regulator says -- The Canadian Press

In Canada, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission released a report in 2012 showing that fracking caused what it called "anomalous seismicity" in the Horn River Basin in northeastern British Columbia. There were 38 low-level quakes in the area between 2009 and 2011... and no seismic activity before then.

Only one was strong enough to be felt on the earth's surface. The report says they caused no damage and posed no risk to public safety or the environment. It also notes that there were eight-thousand fracking completions during that time with no related seismic activity.

The investigation concluded that the events were "caused by fluid injection during hydraulic fracturing in proximity to pre-existing faults."

The federal and several provincial governments have partnered to look at seismic activity associated with fracking. Those include BC, Alberta, Quebec, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories.

Honn Kao is the research scientist leading the study for the Geological Survey of Canada, a branch of Natural Resources Canada.

As mentioned some seismic activity has been linked to fracking in BC. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers sent us a statement saying:

"Industry is contributing $500,000 over five years to improve seismic monitoring in northeastern B.C. This funding has helped to increase the number of monitoring stations to eight from two. Also, natural gas producers developed an operating practice that addresses anomalous seismicity. It is designed to establish monitoring, mitigation and response procedures to avoid or minimize any adverse effects of induced seismicity associated with hydraulic fracturing. This practice applies nationally.".Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

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This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.