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In Oklahoma, 7 quakes in 1 day rattle residents and lawmakers

The Week logo The Week 12/1/2015 Catherine Garcia
Pump jacks and wells in an oil field. © David McNew/Getty Images Pump jacks and wells in an oil field.

In north-central Oklahoma, residents were left shaken Monday after at least seven earthquakes hit, including one jolt that was felt 300 miles away in Iowa.

Scientists say there is a link between the increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma — there were just a few dozen quakes magnitude 3.0 or above in 2012 compared to more than 720 so far this year — and oil and gas activity; several earthquakes are rattling areas where injection wells are pumping wastewater into the earth, The Associated Press reports. State regulators have asked disposal well operators to shut down their wells or have them reduce their volume, but State Rep. Cory Williams (D-Stillwater) said enough isn't being done to slow down the earthquakes. "The problem is we're being totally reactionary as opposed to proactive," Williams told AP. "We wait for a seismic event, and then we react to it, which is an abysmal policy for handling something that can cause catastrophic damage to property and/or life."

Williams said the oil and gas lobby is powerful in Oklahoma, keeping policymakers from regulating the industry, and in 2014, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed into law a bill that states cities and towns can no longer regulate oil and gas operations within their boundaries. Chad Warmington of the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association says if operations are shut down "it would be devastating. The goal is to be able to reduce earthquakes and still be able to produce."

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