ENID, Okla. — Oklahoma is now the No. 1 earthquake area in the world, an Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman said Monday.

Spokesman Matt Skinner said the state is unique in terms of frequency.

"We have had 15 (earthquakes) in Medford since 5 o'clock Saturday morning," he noted. "We've got an earthquake issue."

Skinner said the world is going through a seismic phase.

Scientists are still searching for answers for the rise in earthquakes. A new study shows the increase in earthquakes may be linked to industrial activity, hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. The process involves injecting pressurized fluid deep into the earth around a natural gas or oil well. The fluid is a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals, such as guar gum and hydrochloric acid, used to break up rock formations that hold the oil and gas. Wastewater from this process is then put back into the earth for disposal. Scientists are still trying to get to the bottom of why fracking is linked to earthquakes but others are not. 

"Oklahoma is absolutely unique in terms of the number of earthquakes we've had," Skinner said.

Jim Palmer, OCC director of public information and manager of consumer education, said Oklahoma is unique in North America. He said there are other parts of the world experiencing enormous numbers of earthquakes.

"In North America, Oklahoma is very unique and unique in the world, in the sense that it's concentrated so much in just one area," Palmer said.

In 2013, the oil and gas industry responded to a request from the OCC to consider providing 3D seismic datawhich is proprietary, expensive and absolutely protected by law, he said.

"And the industry responded in a huge way, and they don't get enough credit," Skinner said. "It was a few brave souls that came forward."

But OCC still knows little, Skinner said.

"All we have is data," he said. "In terms of this phenomenon, very little is really known."

Skinner said OGS announced last week it was seeing a reduction in the overall earthquake rate.

"Now, this weekend may have blown that out of the water, I don't know," he said. "Again, based on the data, it would appear that even if you do the right thing, it's going to take a long time. There's no quick off switch."

During the presentation, a map of disposal wells was shown. A meeting attendee asked at what earthquake magnitude should Oklahomans be worried.

Skinner said the OGS says a magnitude 5.0 "is the awful number."

"At 5.0, you are guaranteed property damage," he said. "Anyone ... who's been through a 4.5, as I have in my house, knows that once you've felt a 4.5 you can't imagine what a 5.0 is like. It's awful."

Miller writes for The Enid (Oklahoma) News & Eagle. 

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