Link between fracking and earthquakes established

Link between fracking and earthquakes established

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Dr. Elizabeth Cochran
Dr. Elizabeth Cochran, Seismologist for the U.S. Geological Survey

Dr. Elizabeth Cochran is a seismologist with the U. S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, California. As an observational seismologist, her research ranges from developing new techniques to densely observe earthquakes to evaluating possible cases of induced seismicity.

She, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Oklahoma and Columbia University, linked the M 5.7 Prague, Oklahoma earthquake to nearby wastewater injection; this event is the largest earthquake ever associated with wastewater injection. In 2010, she was recognized with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), which is the highest honor, bestowed by the United States government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.

New Madrid Fault Lines
The New Madrid Fault lines that extend over several states in the Midwest.
San Andreas Fault along side of Crystal Springs Valley in the Bay Area off Highway 280
Aerial view of the San Andreas Fault in the Bay Area of California running along side Highway 280 in the Crystal Springs area.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking is a popular drilling technique used to remove natural gas deposits locked within shale formations deep within the ground.

fracking-infographic
What is Fracking? Click photo for detail.

The scary part of this trend toward fracking is the number of major faults across the United States some of which could cause major damage to nearby nuclear facilities, power grid systems, and transportation systems, if triggered by man-made surface disturbances.  Who is to say that a 5.7 magnitude earthquake such as the kind which Dr. Cochran associated with fracking, could not trigger an existing fault line anywhere within the United States.

The San Andreas Fault runs nearly the length of California from  San Francisco to San Diego and is long overdue for a major earthquake according to seismologists. The Madrid Fault can arguably be considered the largest fault system in the United States and if active could affect the entire country.

It was during the recent State of the Union Address that President Obama announced a stepped up effort to drill for natural gas and oil in the U.S. to reduce dependency on foreign sources. In essence this will result in an unprecedented increase in hydraulic fracturing as  a means of increasing gas reserves.  These policies are not well thought out and “fast tracked” to avoid public outcry.  In addition, the scientific community, as is commonly the case, is not involved in the development of these critical policies leaving only large energy companies to influence executive and legislative decision-makers.

The video below is an interview Dr. Cochran gave to TRNN, the Real News Network, February 2, 2014.

Video and transcript available at Real News Network

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