The risk of man-made earthquakes related to hydraulic fracturing has been largely connected to the disposal of the resulting wastewater via deep well injection. Fracking itself has been identified as the cause of quakes in perhaps two cases.
That changed last week.
State geologists in Ohio investigated five tremors that occurred in March – including a 3.0-magnitude earthquake on March 10 - in the Youngstown area. They found that fracking in the Utica Shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault and triggered the quakes.
The state has issued regulations that are one of the first significant regulatory steps aimed at limiting the possibility of seismic events related to unconventional oil and gas development. Those regs are also being called among the nation's strictest:
Under the new permit conditions, all new drilling sites in Ohio within 3 miles of a known fault or seismic activity of 2.0 magnitude or higher will be conditioned on the installation of sensitive seismic-monitoring equipment. Results will be directly available to regulators…so the state isn't reliant on drilling operators providing the data voluntarily.If seismic activity of 1.0 magnitude or greater is felt, drilling will be paused for evaluation. If a link is found, the operation will be halted.
Will other oil and gas-producing states follow Ohio’s lead and take these prudent new steps to protect public safety?