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Oklahoma earthquake: How oil extraction shifts the ground beneath us

According to a new study from the University of Oklahoma, Columbia University and the US Geological Survey, the November 2011 earthquake in Oklahoma (the state’s largest recorded earthquake with a 5.7 magnitude) may have been caused by wastewater injection from oil production. Geoffrey Abers, a seismologist at Columbia University explained that “the risk of humans inducing large earthquakes from even small injection activities is probably higher than previously thought.”

The oil industry has denied these claims: “to date all the evidence indicates that properly located injection wells will not cause earthquakes”, said a spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute. And while there have been many earthquakes reported in Oklahoma that have had nothing to do with oil extraction and there are many injection wells that have not resulted in seismic activity, we should not “ignore the potential hazards that human activities can cause and most likely are continuing to cause in this case”, said Eliza Richardson, professor of geophysics at Penn State University.

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