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 an 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. And it’s one state where mainstream geologists and seismologists are now confirming the link between fracking and earthquakes that we have been suspecting all along.
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.
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.
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.
These findings resulted in tentative action being taken in Ohio that included an indefinite moratorium on drilling at the affected site.
Now a new study appearing in Seismological Research Letters confirms that 400 small earthquakes were triggered in 2013 along a previously unmapped fault in Harrison County, Ohio, marking the first recorded seismic activity in the area.
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“Hydraulic fracturing has the potential to trigger earthquakes, and in this case, small ones that could not be felt, however the earthquakes were three orders of magnitude larger than normally expected,” said Paul Friberg, a seismologist with Instrumental Software Technologies, Inc. (ISTI) and a co-author of the study.
The earthquakes revealed an east-west trending fault that lies in the basement formation at approximately two miles deep and directly below the three horizontal gas wells. The EarthScope Transportable Array Network Facility identified the first earthquakes on Oct. 2, 2013, locating them south of Clendening Lake near the town of Uhrichsville, Ohio. A subsequent analysis identified 190 earthquakes during a 39-hour period on Oct. 1 and 2, just hours after hydraulic fracturing began on one of the wells.
The micro-seismicity varied, corresponding with the fracturing activity at the wells. The timing of the earthquakes, along with their tight linear clustering and similar waveform signals, suggest a unique source for the cause of the earthquakes—the hydraulic fracturing operation. The fracturing likely triggered slip on a pre-existing fault, though one that is located below the formation expected to confine the fracturing, according to the authors.
“As hydraulic fracturing operations explore new regions, more seismic monitoring will be needed since many faults remain unmapped.” Friberg co-authored the paper with Ilya Dricker, also with ISTI, and Glenda Besana-Ostman originally with Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and now with the Bureau of Reclamation at the U.S. Department of Interior. (emphasis added)
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. A key fracking trial in Dallas pitted 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)
The jury sided with the Parrs and the judge upheld the verdict by awarding them $2.9 million.
Similar negative health effects have been 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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