Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Jess Burrow, left, and James Patterson, looked over the damage caused by a 2011 earthquake in Sparks, Oklahoma. (Photo: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

Oklahoma Is Now the Earthquake Capital of America

Seismic activity increased by 50 percent last year, surpassing 2014 record

Nadia Prupis

Earthquakes in Oklahoma increased by 50 percent in 2015, surpassing the previous year's record and sounding new alarms over the risks of oil and gas operations like hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

In fact, according to the state public utilities regulator, Oklahoma now officially experiences more earthquakes than anywhere else in the world—likely thanks to its expanding fossil fuel industry and the subsequent swell of wastewater disposal operations that scientists say triggers seismic activity.

U.S. Geological Survey data shows that Oklahoma was hit by 881 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or higher, an average of 2.4 per day—up from 585 in 2014.

"For all of us involved, frustration isn't even a word, you feel just as every other resident does, that you're being physically attacked, like you're dealing with a living breathing thing," Matt Skinner, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), told a local outlet on Monday.

About 1.5 billion barrels of wastewater from oil and gas sites were disposed of underground in the state last year.

The commission on Monday ordered five disposal wells to reduce their operations after Edmond, an area just north of Oklahoma City, was hit with at least a dozen earthquakes in less than a week.

KFOR reports:

On a large scale level, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has been responding by ordering companies to well reduce disposal volumes close to epicenters, since March of 2015. What makes this one so different is there are no deep disposal wells close to the Edmond epicenters.

But broken mirrors and cracks in the walls are wake-up calls that earthquakes may be getting closer and closer.

With 3,500 wells functioning throughout the state, the order only applies to a small portion of the operations. However, according to Oil and Gas Conservation Division director Tim Baker, state officials are working with researchers to "plot out where we should go from here."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

World Leaders Must Commit to End Covid-19 Patents: Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus

Decrying the "brutally unequal global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines," Yunus wrote that "there is still time for world leaders to say never again."

Andrea Germanos ·


Addressing Crisis 'Existentially Imperiling' Its People, Vanuatu Declares Climate Emergency

"We are in danger now, not just in the future," said Prime Minister Bob Loughman.

Andrea Germanos ·


'Grotesque': Disgust as Trump Reads Names of Uvalde Victims at NRA Convention

Former President Donald Trump and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas were among those pushing a "good guys with guns" theory that "utterly failed" the latest victims of a mass shooting.

Andrea Germanos ·


Wall Street-Funded Democrat PAC to Spend $1 Million in Bid to Unseat Tlaib: Report

"Imagine spending $1 million to oust Rashida Tlaib instead of organizing in Detroit to make sure Michigan goes blue," quipped one progressive group.

Brett Wilkins ·


Parents Demand Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty 'For the Sake of the Children'

"We cannot remain silent as the fossil fuel industry and world leaders rob our children of a livable future," parents from 32 nations wrote in an open letter.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo