Cracked: 15 Things to Know About Gas, Money and Power

By Eric Roston and Tom Randall - 2014-02-21T13:10:53Z

Sources: USGS; Rick Harris

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Fracking Leads to Earthquakes

Wham, rumble, crack -- the earth is shifting. A sharp uptick in earthquakes in shale regions has been scientifically linked to fracking -- specifically to the injection wells where wastewater is left behind. Those wells, encased in concrete and buried thousands of feet underground, act as a lubricant for faultlines. 

Take Oklahoma. From 1990 to 2008, there were 11 or fewer earthquakes greater than magnitude 2.0 each year. In 2010 there were 180, and in 2013 there were 291. This year is on track to set yet another record. 

The earthquakes are easy to brush aside; most can barely be felt. However, frack-quakes are increasing in strength. Oklahoma’s biggest earthquake on record, magnitude 5.6, occurred in 2011 and was linked to wastewater disposal. It resulted in injuries and significant damage.