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Published on April 12th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Whaddayaknow, Fracking Really Does Cause Earthquakes (Maybe)

April 12th, 2014 by  

According to a new report by The Associated Press, seismologists in Ohio have discovered the smoking gun that may link fracking directly to earthquakes. That finding would be significant if confirmed because, although a strong case has been made that a common method for disposing of fracking wastewater causes earthquakes, the Ohio case is the first known instance in which fracking itself has been directly fingered.

ohio fracking earthquake link possible.

Ohio fracking poster (cropped) by Jayson Shenk.

With fracking already cited as a factor in depressed property values in some areas, the AP report piles more bad news on the growing number of communities that are struggling with the impacts of fracking, the unconventional drilling operation that involves pumping millions of gallons of chemical brine underground to jar natural gas and oil loose from shale deposits.

Fracking And Earthquakes

The Ohio case involved a connected series of five small earthquakes near Youngstown last month. Though too small to be felt on the surface, they were large enough to concern state officials, who imposed a moratorium on new drilling in the area.

Let’s emphasize again for the record that the linkage between the Youngstown quakes and the drilling has not been confirmed, but here’s the money quote from a state official cited by AP:

‘While we can never be 100 percent sure that drilling activities are connected to a seismic event, caution dictates that we take these new steps to protect human health, safety and the environment,’ said James Zehringer, director of Ohio’s natural resources department.

Fracking And Earthquakes

On the other hand, let’s also note that the drilling boom combined with inadequate state oversight resources in Ohio and elsewhere (federal oversight is limited by a Bush-era exemption from the Clean Water Act) means that investigators are far behind events. While the first of its kind, the Ohio case could be the tip of the iceberg.

As for fracking wastewater disposal, injection wells have already been cited as the cause of significant seismic activity in the Youngstown area a couple of years ago among other cases, one recent example being a swarm of earthquakes in Oklahoma.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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