It’s an honest question–one that’s been the focus of environmentalists and others flashing their microscope on fracking.
Anytime you’re shooting chemicals into the earth to literally fracture underlying rock, earthquakes are going to be a cause for concern. It just seems there’s a lot of activity happening underneath the earth.
The answer to this question is a little vague.
It doesn’t, but it kind of does.
According to the United States Geological Survey, fracking is NOT causing most induced earthquakes. Although there’s certainly a chance of it happening, the probability is very, very small.
The real culprit? Wastewater disposal.
As we inject wastewater thousands of feet down into untouched rock, a dramatic leap in pressure occurs–significantly more than the pressure fracking induces. Because of this, increased seismic activity could occur up to 10 miles from the injection point.
Furthermore, fracking mostly occurs at sites which have been worked on before, but wastewater disposal occurs at untouched underground sites.
With that being said, not all wastewater injection wells produce earthquakes, in fact, a combination of factors is necessary for injection to produce them.
This muddies the water a bit, however, there has been a slight correlation between increased seismic activity and increased wastewater injection in the central United States recently.
So, to summarize, fracking itself isn’t causing earthquakes, but the wastewater from fracking itself is contributing.