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Raton Basin Most At Risk Place In Colorado For 2016 Quakes

U.S. Geological Survey
Map displaying potential to experience damage from a natural or human-induced earthquake in 2016. Chances range from less than one percent to 12 percent.

Colorado is one of several states at risk for earthquakes caused by human activity, according to a new map and analysis released by federal scientists.

The U.S. Geological Survey Seismic Hazard map released Monday is the first to include earthquake risk from human actions. The map projects risk of damage-causing earthquakes for the year 2016. 

The locations with the highest risk of earthquakes are parts of California, a state prone to natural earthquakes, and Oklahoma, which has experienced several significant earthquakes as a result of oil and gas wastewater injection.

Mark Peterson, head of the USGS seismic mapping project, said the increased risk of earthquakes is linked to the common practice of injecting wastewater from oil and gas production deep into the ground.

"By including human induced events, our assessment of earthquake risk has significantly increased in parts of the United States," said Peterson.

Since the oil and gas boom, which brought with it more wastewater injection, the number of earthquakes in the central and eastern United States has ticked sharply upward. Scientists have been calling for better monitoring of such quakes.

In Greeley, Colorado, a 2014 magnitude 3.2 earthquake was linked to injection of wastewater from oil and gas activity. A 2011 magnitude 5.3 earthquake in the Raton Basin near Trinidad was also associated with wastewater injection, although scientists say earthquakes in that part of Colorado can be caused by both human and natural factors.

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