Home / General / Fracking and Earthquakes: The Evidence Builds

Fracking and Earthquakes: The Evidence Builds

Comments
/
/
/
395 Views

A report released by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources links earthquakes in the Youngstown area to fracking. Fracking supporters continue to talk of the practice as safe, but the evidence continues to build that the pumping of millions of gallons deep in the ground leads to earthquakes. Fracking needs a great deal more study before we can find out if it can be done without endangering people, but instead we are plunging ahead with the practice around the nation.

Ohio is issuing new regulations:

Future injection into Precambrian rock will be banned and state-of-the-art pressure and volume monitoring will be required. Electronic tracking systems will be required to identify chemicals in the fluids entering the state.

We’ll see what the enforcement mechanism looks like? Given the clear connections between fracking and earthquakes, if they continue, that will be a clear sign that the regulations are not working.

Politics should not be the primary way to think about an issue like fracking, but I do wonder if it will become an issue in the upcoming elections. High gas prices mean that energy is going to be high on the agenda, but the evidence against fracking continues to grow. When Republicans push for more fracking, how will Americans respond? More importantly, could the issue make the kind of difference on a local level that would have larger implications? How will the people of eastern Ohio respond to this? If the Republicans make fracking central to their agenda, could it hurt them in a key battleground state like Ohio? Probably not I guess, but a question worth some thought.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • c u n d gulag

    “When Republicans push for more fracking, how will Americans respond?”

    Probably the way we usually do – “Frack away! Just NIMBY!!!”

  • felwith

    By my read of the article, it isn’t actually the fracking process that was linked to the earthquakes, but diposing of the waste water by sticking it even deeper underground. So it’s back to insisting on proper water treatment and decontamination facilities. Shocking that an industrial quick-fix for a waste disposal problem turns out to have unexpected consequences, I know.

  • Ohio Mom

    Kasich’s idea is apparently to bribe us into liking fracking — he wants to tax fracking just enough to give us small breaks on our income taxes:
    http://www.plunderbund.com/2012/03/03/kasich-to-take-on-big-oil-to-give-you-2-a-week/

  • joejoejoe

    Those aren’t earthquakes, they are freedom shakes!

    • Left_Wing_Fox

      Big Oil DTs.

  • joe from Lowell

    The state of the industry is appalling. It’s the wild west out there.

    At this point, there’s really no practical difference between wanting to regulate fracking and wanting to ban it. The industry needs to be brought to heel, and then we figure out what to do with it.

    The “proprietary formula” scam is a dead giveaway that the industry is riding roughshod over the regulators. At least one agency of the government is allowing itself to be used to protect the industry’s interests.

  • noen

    Injecting wastewater into the ground to dispose of it is not fracking.

    There is no scientific evidence that fracking causes earthquakes.

    State regulators are not scientists and their opinions are not necessarily based on scientific facts.

    “Coincidence” is not causation.

    “Geologists believe it is very difficult for all conditions to be met to induce seismic events,” the report states. “In fact, all the evidence indicates that properly located … injection wells will not cause earthquakes.”

    Brian Dunning’s podcast covered fracking All About Fracking

    And Skepticblog covered this specific issue.
    Does Fracking cause earthquakes

    Reality does not have a liberal bias. It has no bias at all.

    • Stag Party Palin

      You can’t decouple issues that easily. I might just as well say that oil drilling does not pollute. I mean, oil tanker crashes and pipeline breaks pollute, right? But you wouldn’t have those problems if you didn’t drill for oil.

      There is no scientific evidence proof that fracking causes earthquakes.

      FTFY.

      • noen

        “You can’t decouple issues that easily” – Actually you can.

        “I might just as well say that oil drilling does not pollute.” – It’s a good thing I never said that then.

        “I mean, oil tanker crashes and pipeline breaks pollute, right?” – Your claim appears to be that (1) oil tankers crash and (2) oil pipelines break, therefore fracking pollutes. This is not a valid argument. It isn’t even a valid argument that from (1) and (2) we can conclude that oil drilling pollutes.

        “There is no scientific evidence proof that fracking causes earthquakes.”

        Please cite the appropriate scientific journal that contains the evidence (the word you struck out) that fracking causes earthquakes. Let me know when you have a substantive reply.

        • Stag Party Palin

          Shorter Noen: Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

          • noen

            “Guns don’t kill people.”

            These guns have never killed anyone at all. Fracking does not cause earthquakes, does not pollute ground water and does not make your tap water flammable.

            It’s like talking to a wingnut. Same irrational arguments. Different political boogey men.

            • It is very exciting to get a pro-fracking troll.

              • Bill Murray

                i understand he apprenticed at Frackle Rock

              • noen

                I’m not pro fracking. I’m pro truth. Do you really believe that questions of scientific facts are mere political opinion?

                Is the question of global warming simply a matter of what team you are on or does the truth actually matter to you?

                If, as I assume you would say, the truth of global warming is what matters then why does the truth about fracking *not* matter?

                I argue regularly with climate denialists. My approach is simple. I explain basic science and demand actual facts as reported in scientific journals. Why can’t you meet the same standards any one of you would demand of a climate denier?

                I suspect that the reason is because it is an article of faith that fracking is evil because oil companies are evil because all corporations are evil because then you wouldn’t get invited to parties.

            • Speaking of talking to wingnuts, noen might want to take a look at this link: http://www.lmgtfy.com/?q=argument+by+assertion+fallacy

    • rea

      The Skepticblog post in fact explicitly confirms that disposing of waste water from fracking by injecting it into the ground causes earthquakes. Now, that doesn’t show that fracking must cause earthquakes, but it does show that a common procedure for fracking causes earthquakes.

      • noen

        “The Skepticblog post in fact explicitly confirms that disposing of waste water from fracking by injecting it into the ground causes earthquakes.”

        Which is not in fact fracking.

        “it does show that a common procedure for fracking causes earthquakes.”

        Fracking is not the disposal of wastewater. Fracking is when one pumps an appropriate fracking fluid into shale deposits one to six kilometers deep. Please explain the mechanism by which pumping a fluid six kilometers below the surface, often with solid bedrock between, could possibly pollute wells a couple of hundred feet deep or cause earthquakes.

        There simply is zero evidence that fracking causes well water to be explosive or causes earthquakes. If you have some please give the relevant citation.

        • rea

          A true believer, I see, unwilling to read the comments you are arguing with.

          Yeah, disposal of wastewater isn’t fracking. Tell me how you frack without disposing of the resulting wastewater.

          Cooking dinner isn’t washing dishes; therefore, you can cook without worrying about washing the resulting dishes, right?

          • noen

            “Cooking dinner isn’t washing dishes; therefore, you can cook without worrying about washing the resulting dishes, right?”

            That some people dispose of the grey water from washing dishes incorrectly says nothing about whether washing dishes is harmful or not. Some states ban the practice of re-injecting fracking waste water into wells. Sounds good to me. It would be an over reaction to ban dish washing because some homes dumped the water on the ground.

          • Malaclypse

            Well, yes – use paper plates, and throw the trash on your neighbor’s lawn once they are not looking. The next day, blame the neighbor on their other side.

          • noen

            “A true believer, I see, unwilling to read the comments you are arguing with.”

            I read your comment. I also read the Skepticblog post and the ensuing comments and it would seem the threat of earthquakes from waste water transported off site and pumped into old wells is marginal at best and something that can be regulated. The comment by MadScientist, number four, seems very level headed and rational. Quite unlike the fear and conspiracy theories expressed in the comments by Sheila.

            Where I live, in my building, I deal with, and try to debunk, various conspiracy theories monthly. Both from the Left and the Right. So, from my perspective, I read skeptic blogs and listen to skeptic podcasts, both the left and the right have their irrational beliefs that shall not be questioned. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

        • DrDick

          Trust me on this. As someone who grew up in the oil fields and was fed and nurtured by them, the oil and gas companies will always take the cheap and dirty way of doing things and will find a way around regulations, even if you hold a gun to their heads (see Deepwater Horizon for instance). It does not matter what the theory says is possible, all that matters is what the actual practice does.

          • noen

            “Trust me on this.”

            Anecdote is not evidence. To date there is simply zero evidence that fracking causes earthquakes or that it causes tap water to be combustible.

            • Stag Party Palin

              Shorter Noen, Part Deux: I don’t use a condom, because intercourse is not the same as childbirth.

            • DrDick

              How about addressing my actual argument? I did not say “fracking causes earthquakes”. I said that the way the gas companies run their fracking operations (dumping the water back into the ground) seems to cause earthquakes. It simply does not matter what part of the process is responsible, the way the operations are actually conducted (as opposed to the theoretical considerations) appears to cause damage.

              • noen

                “How about addressing my actual argument?”

                Your argument was “trust me” and I think that is rather poor as arguments go. Why should I believe anything you say? Why should I believe your perception of gas companies is accurate even if you strongly believe it? And even if what you say is true how is it relevant to the truth or falsehood of “fracking causes earthquakes”?

                “It simply does not matter what part of the process is responsible”

                Well sure it matters. If fracking itself causes earthquakes and there is no alternative then we shouldn’t allow it. If the disposal of waste water is responsible then all we need is to regulate the disposal.

                We don’t eliminate automobiles because some of them pollute the air. If some people insist on eliminating all cars in spite of the availability of catalytic converters. I think it’s reasonable to conclude such persons have an irrational hate for cars. That conclusion is only strengthened by ad hom attacks and sexual smears.

                • Stag Party Palin

                  Must be one of them apes that reads philosophy.

                • DrDick

                  Do you have any actual evidence of oil and gas companies acting responsibly or in a environmentally friendly manner? Because given a little bit of time I can provide tons of evidence to their behaving irresponsibly, with reckless disregard for the the consequences of their actions for others. I gave you the Deep Water Horizon example and you can also look at south Louisiana generally.

                • noen

                  “Do you have any actual evidence of oil and gas companies acting responsibly or in a environmentally friendly manner?”

                  (1)I don’t have to because I’m not the one making the claim that ALL oil companies ALWAYS act irresponsibly.

                  (2)It is irrelevant to the question of whether or not fracking causes earthquakes.

                • DrDick

                  There is ample evidence that deep waste water wells contribute to earthquakes and is documented by the USGS. Fracking operators normally use such wells to dispose of their waste water from the fracking operations. Therefor, fracking operations cause earthquakes, or can, regardless of whether the actual fracking itself does so.

                  You want evidence of oil and gas company misbehavior? Here:
                  http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2010/0423/Why-do-so-many-oil-spills-happen

                  http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/oil-industry-has-brought-poverty-and-pollution-to-niger-delta-20090630

                  http://www.democracynow.org/2011/2/15/ecuadoran_court_orders_chevron_to_pay

    • Noen is exposing noted ecoterrorists the Ohio Department of Natural Resources!

      I haven’t been so blown away by an argument since I found out that Barack Obama and Derrick Bell are both black.

    • joe from Lowell

      This sounds like the sort of person who thinks that suburban sprawl is a the natural outcome of a free market process, as opposed to what it actually is, which is the determined outcome of central planning which was deliberately designed to promote automobile usage, against the actual preferences of the American public.

  • buddytoledo

    If voters don’t want to vote for Republicans who embrace fracking, who do they vote for? A President who embraces fracking in the State of the Union without using the word fracking?

    • noen

      Perhaps you should do what liberals often tell conservatives to do when their irrational beliefs are shown to be not based in scientific fact i.e. change their beliefs to fit the facts rather than demanding the facts, and politicians, fit their beliefs.

      Science has little to say about most political issues but when it does I believe people on the left and right ought to change their beliefs to conform to the truth rather than attempt to deny reality. Otherwise you both just look silly.

  • Spud

    Man made creation of earthquakes? Yeesh!!!!

    Why do I feel like I am living in a James Bond film?

    That there is some guy sitting in a comfy chair in front of a bunch of monitors going (fluffy cat on the lap optional), “Soon I shall rule the world!!!”

  • JRoth

    Important to note here that this part of Ohio (and most of the western PA Marcellus area) is in Seismic Design Category A. What this means is that buildings are designed without the leads consideration for the possibility of earthquakes. I’m not being hyperbolic here – I’m a registered architect, and the upshot of Category A is that you don’t have to do anything to strengthen your building against quakes, because they never occur at strengths greater than what your building already faces from wind loads (and we’re not exactly talking hurricane winds, either).

    Do you see the problem here? You know how cities down south shut down every time there’s 2″ of snow, not because they’re afraid of snow, but because, if you have no salt and no snow removal equipment (and nobody has snow tires or anything like them), 2″ of snow is actually a problem for anyone who has to drive. Now picture a lot of earthquakes, even minor ones, in places where the buildings simply aren’t designed for them. Lots and lots of unreinforced masonry, very very little strapping on frame buildings.

  • Loen

    *raises index finger*

    “Technically, falling off a building doesn’t kill you. It’s landing that kills you. Technically! Technically! You people have a problem with science.”

    • noen

      “Technically, falling off a building doesn’t kill you.

      False analogy. If you fall off a building hitting the ground is the natural consequence if you do nothing. Transporting waste water to another state and injecting it into an old well is not.

      Spills, accidents and bad actors say nothing about the science. Humans make mistakes. Governments should pass laws to regulate industry and protect people. As long as regulations are in place I can see no reason why fracking cannot continue.

      • DrDick

        See my links above. The oil and gas industry routinely “makes mistakes” (cuts every corner that they can find) like this all the time.

        Theory is all well and good, but it is actual practice that matters. Theory says that if you have a properly packed parachute and pull the rip cord in time, you can descend to earth without serious harm. If the people supplying you with parachutes routinely do not pack them properly and supply faulty rip cords, they are going to kill you on a regular basis.

  • Herbal Infusion Bagger

    “By my read of the article, it isn’t actually the fracking process that was linked to the earthquakes, but diposing of the waste water by sticking it even deeper underground.”

    It also noted that the issue was with one particular well that was located on an unmapped fault. Better seismics pre-drill would have contraindicated this. As the report said:

    ,i>

    “Geologists believe it is very difficult for all conditions to be met to induce seismic events. In fact, all the evidence indicates that properly located … injection wells will not cause earthquakes.”

It is main inner container footer text