Markus Haering probably didn't intend to emulate Lex Luthor when his company's drilling triggered a series of minor earthquakes. But the geothermal energy mogul is up on criminal charges for his earth-shaking exploits.

In 2006, Haering's company was drilling in Basel, Switzerland, as part of a project to convert heat in the underground rocks into electricity. But Swiss authorities charge that the drilling activated the major fault line that runs underneath the city, triggering a series of small earthquakes. Although the most intense of these quakes only rated a 3.4 on the Richter Scale and resulted in no injuries, the Swiss government claims Haering's drilling caused $9 million worth of property damage. Furthermore, they claim there is a 15 percent chance that, had the drilling continued, it would have triggered a major quake that could have caused $500 million in damage.


If Haering is found guilty of deliberately triggering the quakes, he could be jailed for up to five years. But this wouldn't be the first time human actions led to shaky ground. Wired lists five ways humans can cause earthquakes of their very own, including examples of a handful of other accidental Lex Luthors.

Switzerland geologist on trial for 'causing quakes' [BBC via Slashdot]