How Fracking Causes Earthquakes, But Not the One in Virginia

  • Susan Phillips

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Brandon Bennington helps clean up after Tuesday's earthquake knocked food off supermarket shelves in Mineral, Va.


Soon after the 5.9 earthquake struck Mineral, Va. on Tuesday the internet was buzzing with speculation that fracking could have caused the rare east coast quake. It turns out that injecting large amounts of fluid deep into the earth can result in “micro-quakes.”
Geologist James Coleman, who works for the U.S. Geological Survey, says fracking can create quakes, but not those as large as the one in Virginia.
“It’s pretty clear that in some areas, underground injection of wastewater causes relatively small earthquakes, smaller than what we had here in Virginia, but disturbing to some people,” said Coleman.
Fracking has been linked by some geologists to small earthquakes in Arkansas, Colorado, and England. But an industry official assured Coleman on Tuesday that Mineral, Va. has not been the site of any fracking.
Recent quakes in Colorado have prompted some scientists to start looking into the connection between earthquakes and fracking.