Wastewater injects controversy over earthquakes in Oklahoma

A rash of earthquakes in Oklahoma has spurred calls to ban — or at least put a one-year moratorium on — the use of wastewater injection wells in the Sooner State.

But an oil and natural gas industry group says such a move would be unnecessary and counter-productive, pointing to modeling that indicates suddenly stopping the process may actually lead to new earthquakes in some areas.

“We believe that in 12 months we would see a clear decline in the earthquake activity” if a moratorium is put in place, said Johnson Bridgwater, director of Oklahoma Sierra Club. “We are not saying it would completely stop, we are not saying they would go away, but we do believe that a 12-month window would show a steady decline in earthquake activity in the area.”

Steve Everley, senior adviser for Energy In Depth, an outreach campaign funded by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, says there is “no scientific basis for suggesting a blanket ban is necessary” and a proposed moratorium “would negatively impact both the economy and the environment.”

At issue is the amount of seismic activity reported in cities and towns in Oklahoma, one of the nation’s most prolific sources for oil and natural gas.

Oklahoma is credited as one of the places where hydraulic fracturing techniques were refined in the past decade by maverick producers such as Harold Hamm, spurring what’s been called an “energy renaissance” in North America.

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