Earthquakes are a Big Fracking Deal

Increasing Geological Activity Tied to Hydraulic Fracking Practices

Colorado is not known for earthquakes. In fact, the Colorado Geological Survey estimates that Colorado has only had 700 earthquakes of a magnitude of 2.5 or higher since 1867, compared to 20,500 in California. Colorado residents are probably more concerned with wildfires and flooding than earthquakes.

Despite what history has shown, the facts on the ground are changing fast. This year, National Earthquake Tracker shows that Colorado had 11 earthquakes by April. That is already 6 more earthquakes than average. Many Coloradoans and officials are blaming the sudden rise in earthquakes on wastewater-injection wells used by the fracking industry.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, involves disposing of wastewater from oil and gas exploration and drilling by injecting it underground. The Denver Post reports that some 330 fracking wastewater disposal wells have been drilled around Colorado. The U.S. Geological Survey conducted an investigation and concluded that since 2001, 95 earthquakes of a magnitude 3 or higher occurred in Colorado and were caused by oil and gas operations.

Reuters reports that powerful earthquakes originating thousands of miles away from wastewater disposal sites can trigger swarms of minor quakes at the site later. An 8.8 magnitude earthquake that originated in Chile caused a 4.1 magnitude earthquake at a wastewater injection site in Oklahoma. The 2011 Trinidad, Colorado earthquake, is also attributed to fracking operations.1

More research still needs to be done on this phenomenon, but the dangers are already obvious. Forbes reports that three Colorado municipalities, including Boulder, Fort Collins, and Lafayette voted to ban fracking last year. Regardless of how the issue is resolved, your district may be at an increased risk of earthquake damage. Your district should take all necessary precautions to protect your staff, constituents and properties from earthquakes and educate your team on newly emerging Colorado earthquake hazards.

The Pool offers $2,000,000 earthquake coverage at no cost for all scheduled property. However, higher limits can be purchased. Remember, your district has a choice on whether to cover infrastructure. Unscheduled property is not covered from earthquake damage, so it is important to verify that everything is on your Property coverage schedule. Your district and your community are placed at added risk if critical district infrastructure is not scheduled and therefore not covered after a catastrophe.

Recently, a fracking operation was shut down in Weld County due to earthquakes.


1. [Enhanced Remote Earthquake Triggering at Fluid-Injection Sites in the Midwestern United States. Nicholas J. van der Elst, Heather M. Savage, Katie M. Keranen, and Geoffrey A. Abers. Science 12 July 2013: 164-167. [DOI:10.1126/science.1238948])]

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