WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (UPI) — Federal policies and positions on hydraulic fracturing have not changed in response to a weekend earthquake in Oklahoma, a White House spokesman said.
The U.S. Geological Survey recorded a magnitude-3.5 tremor early Wednesday in Oklahoma. That was one of seven in the state in the last 24 hours and follows a magnitude-5.6 earthquake in the state during the weekend.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin responded with a declaration of a state of emergency for the county impacted by the weekend quake, which was felt across multiple states. In a statement, the governor applauded the state agency in charge of oil and gas regulations for calling for all wells within a 725-square-mile area to shut down.
The USGS found the disposal of oil and gas-related wastewater is the “primary reason” for an increase in seismic activity in the central United States. According to Fallin, it’s the federal Environmental Protection Agency that has jurisdiction over so-called disposal wells in some parts of the state.
State researchers, meanwhile, said wastewater injection, not from hydraulic fracturing operations but producing wells, poses the largest potential risk for seismic events in Oklahoma. A 15,000 square-mile “area of interest” was established by state regulators to monitor recent seismic events and their association with the state oil and gas sector.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters it was the policy of PresidentBarack Obama to ensure federal authorities, including those with the EPA, are working with state and local officials to implement a program that best addresses the safety and security of people living in areas where there is activity related to hydraulic fracturing.
“Our approach in Oklahoma will continue to be the approach we’ve taken all across the country, which is we’re going to continue to work with local officials who do have the primary responsibility of ensuring the safety and security of the communities where this kind of activity is taking place,” he said.
Addressing concerns about some advances in technology used to extract oil and natural gas from shale beds, the spokesman said the White House policy regarding hydraulic fracturing “has not changed.”
Oklahoma is one of the largest oil producers in the United States, hosting some of the more lucrative shale basins in the country.