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Cushing, Oklahoma bills itself as the "Pipeline Crossroads of the World." (Photo: Roy Luck/flickr/cc)

Oklahoma Rattled by Earthquake Near Pipeline Epicenter

Oklahoma has experienced thousands of earthquakes in recent years, which scientists have linked back to fracking and wastewater disposal

Nadia Prupis

Oklahoma was rocked by a 5.0 magnitude earthquake Sunday evening near the city of Cushing, a fossil fuel epicenter that bills itself as the "Pipeline Crossroads of the World."

A gas leak and "significant damage" to buildings were reported after the earthquake struck at about 7:44pm local time. Tremors were felt as far away as Little Rock, Arkansas and Kansas City, Missouri. Geologists also recorded several aftershocks and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said they were expected to continue.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which operates public utilities in the state, and the Oklahoma Geological Survey began investigating Sunday. Residents were warned to stay out of the area and some older parts of Cushing were cordoned off in case of continued building damage.

Oklahoma has experienced thousands of earthquakes in recent years, becoming the de facto earthquake capital of the U.S., which scientists have linked back to fracking and wastewater disposal. The latest seismic event comes just weeks after a pipeline in Cushing was shut down after springing a leak, which environmental advocates said underscored the dangers of America's unreliable fossil fuel infrastructure.

Sunday's event also follows a 4.5-magnitude earthquake just last week, which prompted state regulators to consider tightening rules on disposal wells near the town of Pawnee, 25 miles north of Cushing. In fact, according to USGS data, there have been 19 earthquakes in Oklahoma in the past week alone.

But no action on those regulations has been taken. The state chapter of the Sierra Club called on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to implement a moratorium on injection well activity and to "immediately make substantial and WIDESPREAD reductions in the amount of waste liquids they inject into the subsurface of earthquake-prone areas."

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