Oklahoma Broadens Oil and Gas Drilling Regulations

Oklahoma is expanding restrictions on oil and gas drilling activities to stem a sharp increase in earthquakes that has worried residents, damaged homes and raised concerns about the future of the energy industry in the state. But the action, announced on Friday, fell short of more drastic measures expected after a further increase in the rate of significant quakes last month prompted the state's regulator to say the situation was a "game changer." Oklahoma and several other states in the central United States have experienced a sharp increase in earthquakes since 2009, a phenomenon scientists generally believe is linked to underground injection of briny wastewater, a byproduct of booming oil and gas production. The earthquakes are not related to hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," a widely used drilling technique in Oklahoma. Instead, researchers say, the quakes stem from the re-injection of wastewater that occurs naturally in oil and gas formations.