Will Oklahoma keep pace with Kansas on earthquake response?

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While the debate over man-made earthquakes continues in Oklahoma, the state of Kansas is making it clear - there's a connection between oil and gas operations and increased seismic activity, officials say.

The Kansas Corporation Commission has imposed sharp restrictions on wastewater injection wells in response to increased earthquakes, saying there's an "immediate danger" to public safety.

They're limiting the pressure and volume of wastewater that's pumped into disposal wells in two southern counties.

Oklahoma officials say they're also being proactive on the earthquake study.

Some say, not enough.

"They realize disposal wells are the problem," Bob Jackman, a petroleum geologist, said Monday.

Jackman believes state officials have been too slow to acknowledge a connection, and says seismologists across the country are getting more concerned with each tremor.

They predict that we are heading for a magnitude six or seven earthquake," Jackman said.  "The predictions are very, very scary.  We'll be into not only a crisis, but a catastrophe."

Matt Skinner, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, said Oklahoma officials are not taking the issue lightly.

"Every time my house shakes, my concern goes up another notch," Skinner said.

While Kansas is focusing on how much wastewater is injected into the ground, Skinner said Oklahoma is focusing on where it's happening.

They're looking at injection wells in expanded areas of north central Oklahoma.


Skinner says seismologists agree that injecting wastewater below what's called the Arbuckle formation, a porous layer that can absorb a lot of water, poses a potential risk of causing earthquakes within the deeper and solid basement rock.

Disposal well operators in those areas have until April 18 to prove they're not injecting below the Arbuckle. Otherwise, they'll be required to cut their volume of injected wastewater in half.

"This is one of many steps we've taken and it's one of what will be many more steps, no doubt, that we'll take as more data becomes available," Skinner said.

Oklahoma's new rules apply to nearly 40 percent of about 900 Arbuckle disposal wells.

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