Manmade Earthquakes Are Putting Even More Of The Country At Risk

  • This is the first USGS hazard report to factor in manmade earthquakes.

  • The oil and gas industry is considered the primary cause of such quakes.

  • Seven million Americans risk facing one in 2016.

Millions of Americans live in areas that could be affected by manmade earthquakes in the next year, according a new assessment from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The oil and gas industry’s wastewater disposal methods are putting about 7 million people at risk, the federal agency announced Monday in an earthquake hazard report. It’s common for companies to dispose of a drilling byproduct called wastewater by injecting it underground. This practice puts additional pressure on faults in the ground and drives them apart, scientists have observed.

“By including human-induced events, our assessment of earthquake hazards has significantly increased in parts of the United States,” Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project, said in a call with reporters Monday. This was the first USGS report to consider risks posed by both natural and human-induced quakes.

Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas are the states most at risk, he added.

California has long been considered the nation’s earthquake capital. However, factoring in manmade quakes gives north-central Oklahoma the highest risk of experiencing a damaging earthquake this year, with a 12 percent chance.

A 5.1-magnitude earthquake already struck the area last month, although it’s unclear whether wastewater injection triggered the quake. However, waterwater injection did lead to a 5.7-magnitude quake in the area in 2011, the USGS determined.

The risk shouldn’t come as a surprise to residents in most of these regions. The report notes that the rate of earthquakes first began increasing in the Central and Eastern United States in 2010 — a phenomenon other studies have linked to —> Read More

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