Oklahoma earthquakes prompt agency to order well cutbacks

FILE - An Aug. 13, 2013 file photo shows a gas drilling rig at the Detweiler well in Salesville, Ohio. On Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, Ohio lawmakers will hear from backers of a proposal to hike taxes on horizontally drilled shale wells in Ohio. The measure is supported by Ohio's oil and gas industry, including owners of the Detweiler site, as a compromise to an earlier plan pushed by Gov. John Kasich. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma oil-and-gas regulators are making their most far-reaching directive yet in response to the spike in earthquakes in the state by asking the operators of nearly 250 injection wells to reduce the amount of wastewater they inject underground.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission released a plan Tuesday that covers more than 5,200 square miles in northwest Oklahoma. It calls for a reduction of more than 500,000 barrels of wastewater daily, or about 40 percent less than previous levels.

The number of earthquakes with a magnitude 3.0 or greater has skyrocketed in Oklahoma, from a few dozen in 2012 to more than 900 last year. Scientists have linked the quakes to the underground disposal of wastewater from oil-and-gas production.

A 5.1-magnitude quake hit the area Saturday, the third largest in state history.

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