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Environmental Groups Threatening To Sue EPA Over Failure To Prevent Fracking-Related Earthquakes In Ohio & Oklahoma

Presumably, most of you reading this have heard something before about the huge spike in earthquakes throughout many regions where fracking (hydraulic fracturing, as a means of oil/gas extraction) has been used extensively.

Well, it’s looks as though there may now be some legal action taken in response to that issue — with a coalition of various environmental groups now threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over failure to prevent the ongoing earthquakes.

ohio fracking earthquake

The statements to date from the coalition in question challenge the EPA to improve the weak laws currently on the books concerning fracking waste disposal (the part of fracking most highly correlated with earthquakes), or be taken to court.

The group leading the coalition is the Environmental Integrity Project — with the other groups involved being: the Natural Resources Defense Council; Responsible Drilling Alliance; San Juan Citizens Alliance; West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization; Earthworks; and the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice.

The allegation from the coalition is that the EPA has been stalling over the last few years on the issue of oil+gas industry waste regulation despite clear links (attested to by much research) between waste disposal via underground injection wells and recurring earthquakes in Oklahoma and Ohio.


The threat to sue doesn’t just concern injection wells , though, but also the disposal of fracking waste in open-air pits, or retailer landfills — which leaves the threat of toxic leaks and contamination on those uninvolved in the fossil fuel industry.

The Guardian provides more:

Fracking generates a tremendous amount of waste – 280 billion US gallons in 2012, or enough to sink all of Washington DC beneath a 22ft-deep toxic lagoon, according to a 2013 report from Environment America, which did not join the suit.

One of the main risks of that toxic mix of water, sand and chemicals is earthquakes. Oklahoma, which had never previously experienced seismic activity, now has almost daily tremors – which scientists last year linked to the use of high-volume wastewater disposal wells to store wastewater.

It can take up to 9 million gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals to frack a single well, and much of that returns to the surface along with naturally occurring radium and bromides, which are also a growing source of concern for public health.

“When you are dealing with millions of pounds, millions of gallons of waste, it needs to be handled in a very safe way,” stated Adam Kron, a lawyer at the Environmental Integrity Project.

Which means not simply “spraying fracking waste on winter roads as a de-icer” or leaving the waste in open-air pits to evaporate and be carried away — both of which have been used on the large-scale in recent years.

Given that the EPA first noted that there was a need for tighter regulation of oil+gas industry waste products all the way back in 1988, one can easily see how the coalition in question has a point about the agency stalling on the matter. That said, how effective can one expect this challenge to be? The law is, after all, inevitably on the side of money and entrenched interests.

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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