Fracking May Have Induced Ohio Earthquakes

Alex Wolff

Two earthquakes forced state officials to shut down a hydraulic fracturing site in Mahoning County yesterday in the name of public safety. But in doing so, they may also have cut off the seismic activity's culprit. According to the US Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center, Monday's quakes measured a 3.0 and 2.6 in magnitude. Though reports of injuries or damages have yet to surface, the initial, stronger quake woke up several nearby residents in the morning's early hours. Experts from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) are assessing the circumstances surrounding the earthquakes with a keen eye for the role Hilcorp Energy, the Texas-based fracking enterprise, may have played in them. Accusations of enhanced seismic activity have been levied against operations that drill "injection wells"—an apparently essential procedure to wastewater removal from the fracking process. Al Jazeera America reports: Ohio already has regulations prohibiting the disposal of fracking wastewater in certain counties. In January 2012, the state halted the disposal of oil and gas waste disposal in injection wells within a five-mile radius of a well in Youngstown that was linked to a series of earthquakes in 2011. Hilcorp has drilled seven wells at the site near Monday’s earthquakes, according to The Business Journal, a local newspaper. The Columbus Dispatch has credited the ODNR with a preliminary opinion that the earthquakes may not be linked to Hilcorp's injection wells but local activists remain skeptical. Al Jazeera continues: Alison Auciello, the Ohio organizer for environmental group Food and Water Watch, told Al Jazeera that the location and depth of the latest earthquakes’ epicenters are consistent with the particular drilling sites—meaning they may have been caused by the fracking operation itself rather than waste disposal. All operations at the Mahoning County site have been suspended until further notice.

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Alex Wolff is a Spring 2014 editorial intern.
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