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State agency investigates central Oklahoma earthquakes

Posted at 6:31 PM, Feb 05, 2021

TULSA, Okla. — The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is looking into recorded earthquakes near Covington, Okla. The United States Geological Survey reported 4.2 and 2.6 earthquakes in the area.

The OCC, which oversees oil and gas activity in the state, announced it has ordered specific wastewater disposal wells nearby to stop operating.

"There are wells in the area that have had to reduce the amount of produced water that they injected into those disposal wells," Sarah Terry-Cobo, spokesperson for OCC, said.

Fracking is historically thought to induce seismic activity in rich, oil-drilling Oklahoma, but the OCC and seismologists say waterwaste disposal injections are more likely culprits for quakes.

"Inject that wastewater that produced water deep into the earth's surface, far past aquifers and away from drinking water," Terry-Cobbo said.

Hydraulic fracturing, better known as "fracking", happens after oil drilling. The drillers pump oil, water, chemicals, and sand into the rock to produce more oil and gas.

This also causes hazardous wastewater to rise from the ground.

The OCC said the wastewater is loaded into trucks, driven off-site to wells, and shot deep down into the earth again. This raises pressure levels and can force strain on fault lines, increasing the likelihood of earthquakes.

However, the focus has been on fracking at the national level.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order to ban new leases for fracking on federally-owned land.

The OCC said that shouldn't have much of an impact in Oklahoma.

"From what we have learned this far, is that it would affect leases that are happening in federal land and there is no federal land for oil and gas leasing in Oklahoma to speak of," Terry-Cobo said.

The OCC cannot say the same for states like New Mexico, which they said rely heavily on federal land for oil. President Biden has said he will not ban all fracking.

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