Oklahoma officials this week directed oil and gas wastewater well operators near Oklahoma City to curb their disposal levels in light of recent earthquakes in the area.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission — which regulates the state's energy industry — called for five wells near Edmond, Oklahoma, to cut their disposal volumes.
Scientists believe that the oil and gas industry’s use of injection wells, which pump wastewater from drilling operations deep underground, is linked to a dramatic increase in seismic activity in Oklahoma.
"Ceasing activity or slowing it down would be a prudent measure. The science here is still developing," U.S. Geological Survey seismologist George Choy told the Associated Press. "What we need to know is more about the geology, more about the existence of faults."
The Edmond area reportedly saw at least 12 earthquakes — including a 4.2 magnitude quake that caused minor damage — in less than one week.
Under the OCC plan, wells operating within 3.5 miles of the earthquake activity would cut their wastewater volumes in half, while others within a 10-mile radius would reduce volumes by 25 percent.
In addition, other nearby wells would conduct pressure tests of their reservoirs.
Tim Baker, director of the OCC's Oil and Gas Conservation Division, added that the agency is also monitoring activity near Stillwater, Oklahoma, which recorded at least three earthquakes on Monday.
“We are working with researchers on the entire area of the state involved in the latest seismic activity to plot out where we should go from here,” Baker said.
The affected well operators near Edmond have agreed to suspend operations under the voluntary order, the AP reported.