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Did Fracking Cause the Virginia Earthquake? Evidence from West Virginia, Texas and Arkansas

August 24, 2011

Yesterday’s earthquake, large enough to crack the Washington Monument, was felt from North Carolina to Toronto, from New Jersey to Ohio, and beyond — as I learned online in the first twelve minutes after I first felt the floorboards of my kitchen moving under my feet. Many good minds are wondering, with a reasonable base of evidence, whether fracking in West Virginia contributed to or caused the quake.

One blogger, Stuart Bramhall, posted research into this question, “Did Fracking Cause the Virginia Earthquake?” here.  A few excerpts:

Earthquakes in the nation’s capitol are as rare as hen’s teeth. The epicenter of Tuesday’s quake was in Mineral, Virginia, which is located on three very quiet fault lines. The occurrence of yet another freak earthquake in an unusual location is leading many anti-fracking activists (including me – they have just started fracking in Stratford, which is 40 minutes from New Plymouth) to wonder whether “fracking” in nearby West Virginia may be responsible.

Coincidentally, nearby Braxton County, West Virginia experienced eight earthquakes in 2010, and earthquakes lessened after authorities required fracking operators to cut back on the pressure and rate of fracking fluid injection into deep rock layers:

According to geologists, it isn’t the fracking itself that is linked to earthquakes, but the re-injection of waste salt water (as much as 3 million gallons per well) deep into rock beds.

Braxton County West Virginia (160 miles from Mineral) has experienced a rash of freak earthquakes (eight in 2010) since fracking operations started there several years ago. According to geologists fracking also caused an outbreak of thousands of minor earthquakes in Arkansas (as many as two dozen in a single day). It’s also linked to freak earthquakes in Texas, western New York, Oklahoma, and Blackpool, England (which had never recorded an earthquake before).

I think it’s really hard to deny there’s a connection when the frequency of Arkansas earthquakes dropped by two-thirds when the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission banned fracking (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/21/fracking-shutdown-earthquakes-arkansas_n_851930.html). Note that they didn’t stop entirely, which suggests that fault disruption may persist even after fracking stops.

Braxton County West Virginia also experienced a marked reduction in their quakes after the West Virginia Oil and Gas Commission forced fracking companies to cut back on the pressure and rate of salt water injection into the bedrock (see http://www.hurherald.com/cgi-bin/db_scripts/articles?Action=user_view&db=hurheral_articles&id=43334).

According to a joint study by Southern Methodist University and University of Texas-Austin, earthquakes started in the Dallas/Fort Worth region after a fracking disposal well there began operating in 2008 and stopped when it was closed in 2009 (seehttp://www.watershedsentinel.ca/content/does-gas-fracking-cause-earthquakes).

Blackpool, England banned fracking immediately, without waiting to see if more earthquakes would occur.

You can read the full post here:  http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2011/08/23/did-fracking-cause-the-virginia-earthquake/

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