McWilliams: Fracking needs to stop to prevent Colorado earthquakes

Leta McWilliams

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

In recent years, Colorado has been experiencing earthquakes in areas that they’ve never happened before. Anywhere from Greeley to Trinidad, earthquakes are becoming more common. Many of these earthquakes are a result of injecting wastewater into the ground, which is a common side effect of fracking. The amount of fracking and wastewater injection in Colorado needs to stop before we damage the earth beyond repair.

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One of the many negative effects of fracking is the production of wastewater. Many oil and gas wells produce unusable wastewater, so they pump it back into the ground.

“We suspect the vast majority of these earthquakes are from produced wastewater,” Austin Holland, head seismologist for the Oklahoma Geological Survey, said in an article from the Washington Post. Wastewater injection is causing earthquakes in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

In 1962 Colorado experienced its first induced earthquake located north of Denver. It was a consequence of chemical waste being injected back into the ground.

A study conducted by University of Colorado investigated the number of earthquakes in the Raton Basin, located in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. In 2001, about two years after large-scale wastewater injections began, earthquakes started increasing in southern Colorado. They recorded more than 1,800 earthquakes between 2008 and 2010, with the highest magnitude being 4.3.

This is very similar to what happened in Oklahoma. According to the Denver Post, Oklahoma only had a few dozen earthquakes that reached a magnitude of 3.0 or higher in 2012. By 2015, there were more than 900 earthquakes of that size. After the state put regulations on wastewater injection sites, the number of earthquakes reduced to about 600 in 2016. However, these regulations aren’t doing enough. It’s obvious that this side effect of fracking is causing major damage, so it should stop all together rather than making the consequences less detrimental.

This problem has the potential to affect those living in northern Colorado as well. According to a map created by the Denver Post, northern Colorado has many active fracking and oil and gas wells, with 45 wells in Weld County, near Greeley, actively pumping wastewater back into the ground. Additionally, thousands of earthquakes have also been reported close to Greeley over the past five years. As a side effect of a disregard for the wellbeing of the earth, many in Colorado face the potential of being subject to the negative consequences of this unnatural natural disaster.

Investing in stronger infrastructure is not the solution. Colorado is not on a fault line like the Pacific Northwest, so there’s no reason we should be having earthquakes. Funneling money into preventative measures to continue projects that are actively hurting the earth is far from a solution. At the very least, we should be putting regulations on the fracking that’s happening in Colorado to ensure that it doesn’t cause enough damage to repeat Oklahoma’s mistakes.

At the end of March I wrote a column about a  student protesting against a fracking project in Greeley. Now more than ever, students should be following his lead in protesting against these environmental injustices, because the consequences have the potential to directly effect us.

Leta McWilliams can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @LetaMcWilliams