The silence of the earthquakes

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

On Jan. 22, 2015, a 4.4 magnitude earthquake occurred near Fox Creek, Alta., after a swarm of tremors already caused concerns about the hydraulic fracturing of the province’s Duvernay shale. On Jan. 29, Andrew Nikiforuk, award-winning journalist for the independent online magazine The Tyee, wrote an in-depth analysis on the Fox Creek tremor.

Nikiforuk reported that while B.C. and Colorado require operations to cease for active oil wells that feel a greater than 4.0 magnitude earthquake, Alberta does not have these types of regulations. Natural Resources Canada reported at least 15 earthquakes near Fox Creek in January where oil companies have intensified their drilling and fracking in the past year.

Nikiforuk also stated Fox Creek residents remain ill-informed because news of earthquakes have gone under-reported. For example, the Edmonton Journal reported on Feb. 3 an Alberta Energy Regulator investigation into the Jan. 22 event. On Feb. 4, the Journal reported NDP critics called for an investigation by Alberta’s PC government on the Fox Creek earthquake. The articles modestly covered the context that seismic events may be linked to fracking and failed to dig into the issue, instead resorting to news releases and email responses.

The Leader-Post, Star Phoenix and Calgary Herald each released articles Feb. 20 on the AER’s recent statement regarding new regulations that may prevent stronger earthquakes. Policy changes are significant; however, these media outlets only meagerly investigated the story behind the Fox Creek earthquake.

What Nikiforuk accomplished in his piece is by virtue of thorough reporting. He addressed perspectives of regulators, professors, eye-witness residents, surveys, seismic specialists, reports, petroleum producer associations, and scientists. The myriad of perspectives distinguishes his reporting from his mainstream counterparts.


Andrew Nikiforuk, “Did Alberta Just Break a Fracking Earthquake World Record?” The Tyee, Jan. 29, 2015. Accessed at

David Howell, “Fracking Possible Cause of 4.4 Magnitude Quake at Fox Creek.” Edmonton Journal, Jan. 31, 2015. Accessed at “

Student researcher: Paige Kreutzwieser (University of Regina)

Faculty evaluator: Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)