Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Today’s report once again highlights the dangers the fracking cycle poses to our communities," declared Dan Chu, director of Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, on Monday. (Photo: Owen Crowley/cc/flickr)

"Today’s report once again highlights the dangers the fracking cycle poses to our communities," declared Dan Chu, director of Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, on Monday. (Photo: Owen Crowley/cc/flickr)

Drilling-Induced 'Frackquakes' Threatening Millions Across Central US

For the first time, USGS includes human caused seismicity in predictive map

Lauren McCauley

Oil and gas drilling has made parts of the central United States as dangerous as the most earthquake-prone regions of California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), exposing millions of people to the risk of human-induced earthquakes, known as "frackquakes."

According to new maps released on Monday by the USGS, roughly 7 million people who live and work in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arkansas face "potential for damaging shaking from induced seismicity," which the USGS notes is triggered primarily by wastewater disposal from oil and gas drilling activities.

"Within a few portions of the [Central and Eastern U.S.], the chance of damage from all types of earthquakes is similar to that of natural earthquakes in high-hazard areas of California," the USGS states, with Oklahoma being the most prone to induced earthquakes and having the largest at-risk population.

Oklahoma has seen a rapid increase in earthquakes registering at or above a 3.0 magnitude per year, surging from 109 in 2013 to over 900 in 2015.

Last year, the state's oil and gas industry regulator said that Oklahoma now experiences more earthquakes than anywhere else in the world, which scientists and officials have linked to the proliferation of disposal wells, which inject the toxic byproduct of oil and gas production deep underground.

"Today’s report once again highlights the dangers the fracking cycle poses to our communities," declared Dan Chu, director of Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, on Monday.

Connecting the rise of human-induced earthquakes to the other threats posed by the continued use of fossil fuels, Chu added, "The world is already experiencing deadly storms, droughts, and erratic climate and weather extremes due to climate change, and the rapid increase in earthquakes caused by wastewater injections from the oil and gas industry only raises the threat to communities across the country."

The USGS' one-year seismic hazard forecast for the Central and Eastern U.S. is the first predictive map to include human-induced earthquakes, in addition to natural earthquakes. Last spring, the government agency released another landmark map which highlighted the location and frequency of earthquakes thought to be caused by human activities.

Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project, said that "by including human-induced events, our assessment of earthquake hazards has significantly increased in parts of the U.S.."


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.

Analysis Finds State Legislators Proposed 306 Bills Targeting Trans People in Past 2 Years

"Right-wing state lawmakers are obsessed with taking away the rights of trans people and we're obsessed with knocking them out of public office," said one rights group.

Julia Conley ·


Democracy Defenders Vow to Sue After GOP-Led Arizona County Refuses to Certify Election

The secretary of state plans to sue after GOP officials put the votes of more than 47,000 Arizonans at risk.

Kenny Stancil ·


Amazon Workers to Protest 'Corporate Law-Breaker' CEO Jassy, Demanding End to Union-Busting

"If Jassy comes to New York he should come to bargain a contract with Amazon workers, not bluster or practice union-busting."

Julia Conley ·


90+ Groups Warn 'Kids Online Safety Act' Could Have 'Damaging' Effects

"Congress needs to pass real laws that rein in the abuses of Big Tech and protect everyone's privacy and human rights rather than using kids as pawns to advance poorly drafted legislation in order to score political points," said one critic.

Jessica Corbett ·


'No F*cking Excuse': Outrage in Houston Over Officials' Late Notice of Boil Water Alert

"Would have been nice to know BEFORE my little girl showered, drank water from the tap, and brushed her teeth this evening," said one mother after authorities took at least six hours to notify more than 2 million residents of the advisory.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo