The revolutionary method of natural-gas extraction known as hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – has left in its wake a trail of contaminated water supplies, polluted air, health problems, and environmental degradation. But what is potentially the most damaging aspect of the process is just coming to light in the form of a tremendous spate of earthquakes in the heart of the United States.
In the past week, northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas have suffered forty two earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 on the Richter scale – 17% of all earthquakes in the world. This brings the year-to-date count up to 680 such tremors – and this in area that until recently was almost completely seismically dormant. Up until 2009, the area experienced an average of 1.5 of these quakes each year. What has changed since then is the massive influx of fracking operations seeking to take advantage of the Woodford Shale that straddles the two states’ border.