EPA Urges State Regulators to do More to Prevent Stronger Earthquakes Caused by Wastewater Injection Wells


Despite numerous steps to reduce operations of wastewater injection wells that are suspected of causing Oklahoma’s rash of strong earthquakes, the Environmental Protection Agency thinks the state is not doing enough.

The EPA recently told Corporation Commissioners they should do more to protect Oklahomans and their drinking water from strong earthquakes caused by the injection wells, according to a report in The Frontier.

The Tulsa-based investigative group obtained a copy of a letter sent by EPA Region 6 Administrator Ron Curry to each of the Corporation Commissioners, Bob Anthony, Dana Murphy and Todd Hiett. In the letter, Curry pointed out that the number of earthquakes in the state dropped in 2016 but their intensity grew.

“We recognize that the Oklahoma Geological Survey reports the total number of 2016 earthquakes appears to be dropping from last year’s activity, but we also see a continued and disturbing upward trend in event magnitudes,” wrote Curry. “Further actions to address disposal well-related pressure buildup in the Arbuckle Formation are imperative to protect human health and to prevent contamination of underground sources of drinking water from induced earthquakes.”


Like others who believe the growing likelihood of a stronger earthquake could put the Cushing oil storage farm at risk,the EPA issued the same stern warning.


“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) projects that a quake of magnitude 5.7 could significantly damage the oil storage tanks in Cushing. Furthermore, a study led by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) seismologist Dr. Daniel McNamara concluded that in 2014, earthquakes increased stresses along two stretches of a fault beneath Cushing and could lead to higher magnitude events,” his letter states. “As you fully recognize, a breach in the integrity of the Cushing pipelines and storage facilities could be catastrophic for both the environment and the national energy system given the more than 80 million barrels of crude oil storage capacity.”

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