Some states have started to ban waste wells in Oklahoma and Texas.

“It’s important to recognize the risk that these maps point out, but that risk is going to change depending on what’s happening on the ground.” Wastewater wells may not be active for more than a few months or a year; after that, they may no longer pose a risk. Meanwhile, it can take years for a state or community to change building codes to make structures more quake-sturdy.

Moreover, some states have started to ban or limit waste wells in these quake zones. “And in the few places where the injection has stopped,” Zoback says, “the earthquakes have stopped.”

Study and Statement by – Mark Zoback, a geophysicist at Stanford University.

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Large cracks in the sidewalk in Coyle, Okla., appeared after several earthquakes on Jan. 24.
J Pat Carter/Getty Images
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USGS
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USGS

Some parts of Oklahoma and Texas now have about the same risk of an earthquake as parts of California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The big difference is, the quakes in Oklahoma and Texas are “induced” — they’re caused by oil and gas operations that pump wastewater down into underground wells.

USGS scientists have now published the first maps of these new quake zones, and they’re an eye-opener. An eye-opener because 7 million people are now, suddenly, living in quake zones. There are 21 hot spots where the quakes are concentrated; they’re in places where, historically, noticeable earthquakes were rare: Texas, Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Ohio and Alabama have also experienced some induced quakes.

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