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Emails Show Federal Geologists' Dismay at Oklahoma's Explanations for Earthquakes

Joe Wertz
StateImpact Oklahoma

As fracking activity in Oklahoma proliferated, the frequency of earthquakes in the state began to skyrocket. And as the quakes increased, so did the tension between federal and state researchers about the causes of the rumbling. So StateImpact Oklahoma decided to take a closer look at that feud. What they found was unsettling, though perhaps unsurprising to many. As earthquake activity spiked, federal scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey feared that Oklahoma’s citizens weren’t getting the whole truth from their leaders.

StateImpact filed a Freedom of Information Act claim and were able to obtain emails from the federal scientists. With dismay, they discovered that Oklahoma residents were getting inaccurate information from Oklahoma state officials and the oil and gas industry about what was causing the quakes.

Oklahoma officials at first blamed the quakes on natural causes, while minimizing their severity and downplaying the fracking connection.