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Ohio Regulators: Link Between Recent Quakes and Fracking 'Compelling,' Prompting New Standards

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Polluted water resources. Compromised housing values. And now, earthquakes?

As companies increasingly rely on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to expand U.S. oil and gas operations, regulators are finally beginning to understand its potential impact on public health and the environment.

Over the past year, a dozen earthquakes have occurred in the Youngstown, Ohio, area, with magnitudes ranging from 2.1- to 4.0 on the Richter scale. Each one occurred less than a mile from a "Class II deep injection well," a cavity created to dispose of wastewater from drilling and fracking operations. This particular well is near an underlying fault. It began operation just three months prior to the first quake.

On March 9, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced that that a preliminary investigation had found "compelling" evidence of an association between the quakes and wastewater injections in the well. The department said it would develop more stringent regulations in hopes of heading off more seismic disturbances.

As the detailed report shows, we still have much to learn about the consequences of fracking and their potential costs. The Youngstown quakes may not be a fluke. Earthquakes possibly induced by drilling operations have been reported in Oklahoma, Arkansas, British Columbia and England.

EWG is urging regulators and policymakers to conduct extensive scientific research before giving the green light to fracking. The stakes are high for public health and the environment. We cannot afford to get this one wrong.

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