Fracking, Earthquakes, and Public Science in Rural America

Thursday Lecture Series, Shock and Reverberation

March 2, 2017 Thursday, 12:15pm–2:05pm EST The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Whitney Laemmli
  • Registration required. See details.
  • Audience open exclusively to Columbia faculty, students, and invited guests
  • All others interested in attending, please email SOF/Heyman at [email protected].

The middle of the United States has shaken in recent years with unexpected earthquakes. The most recent large midcontinent quake, an M5.8 tremor centered in eastern Oklahoma, was felt from the Dakotas through Texas.

Scientists studying these earthquakes have implicated our recent shale energy revolution, particularly the pressure created by the massive volume of toxic wastewater produced when we use hydraulic fracturing to harvest oil and gas from shale formations. In some states, regulators have restricted the underground injection of wastewater, but other states are taking only limited action or continue to deny the science linking fracking to earthquakes. What can we make of such divergent responses to earthquakes that shake across state lines?

Drawing from research she is undertaking with science journalist Anna Kuchment, historian Conevery Bolton Valencius will introduce the layers of geology and social complexity that link energy production and earthquakes and discuss how the understanding of science and the denial of science are shaped by the rural environments of the American shale boom.