There has been an ongoing battle between researchers and the natural gas and oil industries over whether or not hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is definitively leading to an increase in earthquake activity.
In a recent article entitled “Oklahoma Breaking Records For Earthquake Activity – Fracking?” I presented evidence from the U.S. Army, U.S. Geological Survey, the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the Geological Society of America, which suggests that it is becoming conclusive that fracking causes earthquakes. Furthermore, studies also indicate that even when fracking is halted, earthquake activity can continue and earthquake magnitude can increase over time.
Ohio is already on the map as one of the 6 states where earthquakes are a new feature of reality. According to a new report, Ohio geologists are the latest to express concern over why earthquake activity is on the rise in regions where fracking has been taking place.
Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica Shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.”
While earlier studies had linked earthquakes in the same region to deep-injection wells used for disposal of fracking wastewater, this marks the first time tremors in the region have been tied directly to fracking, Simmers said. The five seismic events in March couldn’t be easily felt by people.
The A.P. goes on, however, to offer a hedge to this troubling information:
The oil and gas drilling boom targets widely different rock formations around the nation, so the Ohio findings may not have much relevance to other areas other than perhaps influencing public perception of fracking’s safety. The types of quakes connected to the industry are generally small and not easily felt, but the idea of human activity causing the earth to shake often doesn’t sit well.
But for the region encompassing Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where energy companies have drilled thousands of unconventional gas wells in recent years, it’s a first.
Glenda Besana-Ostman, a former seismologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, confirmed the finding is the first in the area to suggest a connection between the quakes and fracking. A deep-injection wastewater well in the same region of Ohio was found to be the likely cause of a series of quakes in 2012.
The “relevance” when one considers similar confirmations anywhere thorough studies are conducted goes beyond merely “influencing public perception” about safety. Furthermore, passing off these quakes as “generally small and not easily felt” should not diminish the concern that these quakes will become more frequent and larger over time as the Geological Society of America has concluded.
Nevertheless, it appears that tentative action is being taken in Ohio:
Ohio has also imposed an indefinite drilling moratorium at the site of the March quakes. The state is allowing oil and gas extraction to continue at five existing wells at the site.
Such events linked to fracking are “extremely rare,” said Shawn Bennett, a spokesman for the industry group Energy In Depth, who described the new rules as safeguards that will prevent similar future quakes in Ohio.
The link between fracking and earthquakes is becoming too strong to ignore, or to shrug off as “extremely rare” when the scientific studies keeping mounting.
In addition to the threat of earthquake activity, the negative environmental and health effects of poisoned water and food is spurring people to take action. The first fracking trial has opened in Dallas which pits Texans Bob and Lisa Parr of Wise County against Aruba Petroleum
for property and personal damages which the couple claims they have suffered as a result of Aruba’s fracking operations. The Parr property was surrounded by natural gas frackers in 2009. The Parrs charge that frackers have so polluted their air and water as to destroy their right to peacefully enjoy their home and property and properly care for their pets and livestock, some of whom have died as a result of the fracking pollution, according to the complaint against Plano, Texas-based Aruba Petroleum. (Source)
These are conditions which echo those reported in Pennsylvania and Louisiana:
…the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture quarantined 28 cattle belonging to Don and Carol Johnson, who farm about 175 miles southwest of (nearby Slope Farm’s owner Ken) Jaffe. The animals had come into wastewater that leaked from a nearby well that showed concentrations of chlorine, barium, magnesium, potassium, and radioactive strontium. In Louisiana, 16 cows that drank fluid from a fracked well began bellowing, foaming and bleeding at the mouth, then dropped dead. Homeowners near fracked sites complain about a host of frightening consequences, from poisoned wells to sickened pets to debilitating illnesses. (Source)
If you would like to see some visual evidence of what people are going through in fracked regions, please see the move Gasland, the short video The Face of Fracking Victims, and see these 5 Videos Showing How Fracking Can Make Water Flammable.
When combined with the mounting evidence of the fracking-earthquake link it is clear that fracking is becoming a menace that can’t be ignored. It is imperative that people become informed and begin raising this issue with local government. The history of oil and gas exploration indicates that a rollback from Big Energy will not be done without overwhelming opposition.
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