Disasters are usually caused by natural forces, but earthquakes are increasingly being caused by human activity, particularly hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. A prime example of this is in Oklahoma and southern Kansas, two areas which now have an earthquake risk equal to that of California. The numbers don’t lie. Up until 2000, Oklahoma experienced only 2 earthquakes a year on average, whereas in 2015, the state experienced a whopping 4,000 earthquakes! In total, according to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists, 3 million people are now at risk in these areas.
How Fracking Causes Earthquakes
Again, the primary cause of this is fracking – the deep underground disposal of wastewater that is a byproduct of oil extraction. As more and more wastewater is injected into the Earth at deeper and deeper levels, the risk increases. This wastewater injection acts as a sort of lubricant that makes underground faults more likely to shift.
The good news is that upcoming regulatory directives are expected to help curtail this activity. This is really great news, because the frequency of disasters is already increasing due to things like global warming. Anything that can be done to counter this trend, like reducing if not eliminating the practice of fracking, can help offset the negative impact of climate change. That said, this is just another example of the extreme importance of emergency planning in the utility industry, because as you know, you can’t always predict…but you can always prepare!