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Answering Aunt Edna

Induced Seismicity

Aunt Edna has been hearing media reports about an increase in the frequency of earthquakes in Oklahoma and wants to know what’s going on. In particular, she’s asking if this is related to fracking.

The short answer

  • While there are naturally occurring earthquakes in Oklahoma, the recent increase is believed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to be related to the industry practice of underground wastewater disposal. This is not the same thing as fracking.
  • Human-induced earthquakes are known as “induced seismicity”.
  • Seismicity occurs every day across the country for a variety of reasons. A 2017 report by USGS that forecast the potential for both natural and induced seismicity throughout the United States found a 50 percent reduction in the number of Americans living in an area with a significant risk of experiencing a damaging manmade earthquake, a drop of 3.5 million compared to USGS’ 2016 forecast of seven million.

Fact sheet

To help you talk about this with Aunt Edna, we created a one-page fact sheet on induced seismicity and wastewater disposal wells. The fact sheet covers the reason why disposal wells are used, how induced seismicity is being addressed, and some key points that will help you provide some context.

Share this infographic on your social networks today by clicking here.

Additional resources

Here’s a Washington Post editorial that offers more context on the USGS map: There’s no need to panic over fracking-related quakes

If you would like to dive a little deeper on the issue, we recommend the following resources:

What you can do

If Aunt Edna is asking about induced seismicity, please feel free to share this fact sheet with her.

Even if you’re not getting questions on this topic, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the information on the fact sheet so you can serve as a resource for the folks in your personal network if they have questions about this in the future.

‘Answering Aunt Edna’ is a recurring series that is designed to help CAN members answer tough questions from their friends, family and neighbors.