Kansas earthquake task force meets to draft state action plan

WICHITA, Kan. — An increase in earthquakes in Kansas has gotten Governor Brownback’s attention. Now he’s asking for guidance and the public’s input to determine if state regulations should be put in place if  human activity is the cause. However, many say the big question is really trying to find out why the seismic activity is booming.

In the past few months, earthquakes have become a conversation starter, the most recent being a 4.3 magnitude that happened in Oklahoma and was felt in Wichita at the end of March.

“Between what they’ve seen in the news and what they felt, they obviously felt like this is an increase in the activity,” said Kansas’ Sierra Club chair, “so they wanted to find out perhaps is this induced is this natural?”

But answers seem to hard to come by, while some say the increase in fracking activity along the Oklahoma state line could be a cause, state officials are wary of placing the blame there just yet. Wednesday, a state task force met with stakeholders in Wichita to talk about the current environmental situation and to begin the process of drafting the state’s response plan should human activity be the cause of the seismic activity.

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“We do know there are cases where there are earthquakes that have been directly tied back to activity associated with human subsurface drilling or activities,” said Rick Miller, a senior scientist with the Kansas Geological Survey, “we don’t know that for sure in Kansas.”

Others with the Kansas Geological Survey echoed the statement.

“Correlation is not causation,” said Rex Buchanan interim director of the governor’s task force. “Just because you’ve got some enhanced activity in that part of the state and you see seismic activity that doesn’t necessarily mean those two things are connected.”

Officials say until we have more research done, we won’t have an answer to that question.

“In Kansas we don’t have a smoking gun,” said Miller. “We simply know that there’s activity going on but we don’t know enough about these events that are occurring to be able to say the catalyst.”

The Induced Seismicity State Task Force will accept comments on the Draft State Action Plan for potential induced seismicity through 5:00 pm Friday May 16, 2014.

Comments should reference State Action Plan for potential induced seismicity and may be sent to the Kansas Corporation Commission, Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, 1500 S.W. Arrowhead Road, Topeka, KS 66604, or emailed to public.affairs@kcc.ks.gov, or you may call 1-800-662-0027.

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