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Quakes could be caused by fracking in new study

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The recent rash of earthquakes that have shaken parts of the country from Alabama to Oklahoma to the Northern Rockies may be been linked to a controversial drilling technique known as fracking, according to a recent study.

The study, led by USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth, linked the spike in earthquakes since 2001 to man-made oil and gas extraction operations.  A possible cause of the temblors is the underground injection of drilling waste water.

“With gasoline prices at $4 a gallon, there’s pressure to rush ahead with drilling, but the USGS report is another piece of evidence that shows we have to proceed carefully,” said Dusty Horwitt, Senior Counsel and chief natural resources analyst at Environmental Working Group. “We can’t afford multi-million-dollar water pollution cleanups or earthquakes that could pose risks to homes and health.”

The report did not say why the oil and gas activity could cause earthquakes, but the increase in the oil and gas activity called hydraulic fracturing could be to blame.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, involves pumping wastewater back underground in disposal wells. Oil and gas activity has nearly doubled in the last decade in the US. These injections can change the pressure and add lubrication along faults.

By Dusty Horwitt and Alex Formuzis, the Environmental Working Group

Read more here.