Fracking

Ohio Announces Stricter Fracking Permits After Link Between Extraction and Seismic Activity is Found

Geologists in the Buckeye State are the first to directly link gas extraction with tremors

Photo Credit: Cico / Shutterstock

Geologists working for the State of Ohio have confirmed a direct link between hydraulic fracturing and a recent spate of seismic activity in region. The scientists' findings have prompted the state to issue new permit conditions for fracking that are among the nation's strictest. 

Ohio has been investigating recent tremors near Youngstown, in the northwestern part of the state. The geologists found that the high-pressure injection of water and fracking compounds into the underground rock formation known as the Utica Shale have likely stressed a previously unknown fault. 

Earlier studies have linked seismic activity in the area to deep-injection wells used for the disposal of fracking fluids. This is the first time that a link has been drawn directly to the hydraulic fracturing extraction process. The geologists say that five tremors in the area were all directly related to gas extraction from the shale. The tremors were considered relatively mild. A deep-injection well in the same area was found to be the likely cause of a several tremors last year.

The permits will be stricter for new drilling sites. Any site within three miles of a known fault or where seismic measurements of more than 2.0 in magnitude have been recorded will need to have seismic monitoring equipment installed, which will be monitored by state regulators. If a tremor of more than 1.0 occurs at the site, drilling will cease until the site is evaluated. If geologists find a link between fracking and seismic activity, the site will be shut down. 

Hydraulic fracturing but the related practice of pumping dirty waste fluids deep underground have been cited as the cause of unprecedented swarms of earthquakes in Ohio, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. A recent study by the U.S.. Geological Survey found that the rate of earthquakes of more than 3.0 has increasing greatly in those areas since 2001, at the beginning of the shale drilling boom. 

"While the seismicity rate changes described here are almost certainly manmade, it remains to be determined how they are related to either changes in extraction methodologies or the rate of oil and gas production," said the study.  

Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor at AlterNet and served as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. Twitter @cliffweathers.

 

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