- Associated Press - Sunday, November 20, 2016

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Nearly 300 damage claims have been submitted since Oklahoma’s largest earthquake, but only four of those claims have been paid, an analysis shows.

Oklahoma Insurance Department data show that the approved claims for the Sept. 3 earthquake, which was magnitude 5.8 and centered near Pawnee, totaled $24,000, with the largest single payout at around $21,000, the Tulsa World reported (https://bit.ly/2fdnPju ).

The analysis showed that claims from the Pawnee earthquake were about equal to the nearly 340 filed after a magnitude 5.7 earthquake struck near the town of Prague in 2011. Insurance data show about one-third of claims made after that quake were approved.

Oklahoma has had thousands of earthquakes in recent years, with nearly all traced to underground wastewater disposal from oil and natural gas operations. Some scientists say that the high-pressure injection of massive amounts of chemical-laced wastewater deep in the earth induces the quakes. Regulators have asked oil and gas producers to either close injection wells or reduce the volume of fluids they inject.

Pawnee residents filed a class-action lawsuit in district court against energy companies late last week, and the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma filed a federal lawsuit seeking drilling permits for oil and natural gas wells on tribal land to be voided.

Insurance policies used to exclude earthquakes triggered by man-made activities, but with the uptick of temblors in Oklahoma in recent years, insurers offer policies covering man-made and natural quakes.

“They’re one and the same now; they are definitely covered,” Insurance Commissioner John Doak said. “Over 90 percent of the market is going to cover earthquakes no matter if they’re man-made or natural.”

A 2015 study by the U.S. Geological Survey suggested that Oklahoma’s industrial activities, such as natural gas and oil production, have caused the sharp rise in earthquakes in the past 100 years.

The insurance department doesn’t have data available on the magnitude 5.0 temblor that struck on Nov. 6 near Cushing, damaging dozens of buildings in a town that’s home to one of the world’s key oil hubs.

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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