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Confirmed: Fracking Caused Ohio Earthquakes

Common Dreams staff

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has confirmed that a series of earthquakes in the state were caused by injecting leftover fracking fluids, "brine," deep into wells.


ODNR stated today:

Geologists believe induced seismic activity is extremely rare, but it can occur with the confluence of a series of specific circumstances. After investigating all available geological formation and well activity data, ODNR regulators and geologists found a number of co-occurring circumstances strongly indicating the Youngstown area earthquakes were induced. Specifically, evidence gathered by state officials suggests fluid from the Northstar 1 disposal well [a deep injection well primarily used for oil and gas fluid waste disposal] intersected an unmapped fault in a near-failure state of stress causing movement along that fault.

A number of coincidental circumstances appear to make a compelling argument for the recent Youngstown-area seismic events to have been induced.

The ODNR report notes that in 2011, the Youngstown, Ohio area experienced 12 "low-level seismic events," and that the 2011 earthquakes were unique because of their proximity to a deep disposal well, known as Northstar 1, used to inject fracking fluids.

The report adds that "before 2011, [Ohio Seismic Network] had not recorded earthquake activity with epicenters located in the Youngstown area."

From April 26 to Dec. 15, 2011, state geologists and regulators investigated a possible link between the well injections and the earthquakes, but were unable to obtain enough necessary data.

In Dec. of 2011 equipment and assistance was provided by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and after obtaining more seismic data, the ODNR director stopped operations at the well.

Based on the data, the report states:

A number of coincidental circumstances appear to make a compelling argument for the recent Youngstown-area seismic events to have been induced.

Based on the new information, Ohio is not banning fracking, but has new regulations for fracking fluids disposal.

With more than 144,000 Class II wells injecting more than 2 billion gallons of leftover fracking fluids every day in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Ohio’s Class II disposal well regulations meeting or exceeding EPA regulations, questions linger about the potential for fracking-induced earthquakes elsewhere.

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