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significant concern to public health and safety. The ultimate success of such a protocol is fundamentally tied to the strength of the collaborative relationships and dialogue among operators, regulators, the research community, and the public.


Four federal agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)—and different state agencies have regulatory oversight, research roles, and/or responsibilities related to different aspects of the underground injection activities that are associated with energy technologies. To date, these various agencies have dealt with induced seismic events with different and localized actions. These efforts to respond to potential induced seismic events have been successful but have been ad hoc in nature. Many events that scientists suspect may be induced are not labeled as such, due to lack of confirmation or evidence that those events were in fact induced by human activity. In areas of low historical seismicity, the national seismic network coverage tends to be sparser than that in more seismically active areas, making it difficult to detect small events and to identify their locations accurately.


The primary findings, gaps in knowledge or information, proposed actions, and research recommendations to address induced seismicity potential in energy technologies are presented below. Details specific to each energy technology are elaborated in Chapter 7.

Overarching Issues


1. The basic mechanisms that can induce seismic events related to energy-related injection and extraction activities are not mysterious and are presently well understood.

2. Only a very small fraction of injection and extraction activities among the hundreds of thousands of energy development wells in the United States have induced seismicity at levels that are noticeable to the public.

3. Models to predict the size and location of earthquakes in response to net fluid injection or withdrawal require calibration from field data. The success of these models is compromised in large part due to the lack of basic data on the interactions among rock, faults, and fluid as a complex system; these data are difficult and expensive to obtain.

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