In 2011, a 5.7 earthquake near Prague, Okla. (pop. 2,500), buckled U.S. Highway 62. Photo: John Leeman in Green Building Elements
In 2011, a 5.7 earthquake near Prague, Okla. (pop. 2,500), buckled U.S. Highway 62. Photo: John Leeman in Green Building Elements

Not hydraulic fracturing, the process of breaking into rock to get at oil and natural gas deposits. I’m referring to fluid injection: how the industry gets rid of billions of gallons of brackish water that come up with the oil (10 barrels of water for every barrel of oil).

According to the New Yorker, no one’s regulating where energy companies drill disposal wells. If they’re too close to basement rock -- the very old, very thick, and very hard layer beneath the “topsoil” rock (which itself can be 3 miles deep) – they trigger earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater.

That’s the level at which you feel the quake. Fracking may cause a tremor or two, but rarely that strong.

Oklahomans feel three times as many quakes as Californians. Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Ohio, and Texas are similarly afflicted (although not as much). You’re not immune if you’re in the Midwest, according to at least one source.

I don’t think anyone’s been killed (yet), but there’s been millions of dollars in property damage. So why haven’t we heard more about this phenomenon?

Probably because much of the damage is in rural areas. The largest Oklahoma community affected has 31,000 people; the rest are towns with less than 3,000 people.

Which makes me wonder if a rural landfill’s ever been harmed by seismic activity (imagine the implications). If you know, e-mail me at sjohnston@hanleywood.com.