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Ohio 4.0 earthquake caused by fracking fluid injection; Oklahoma quakes caused by hydraulic fracturing

January 1, 2012

The Washington Post reported that the 4.0 magnitude earthquake in northeast Ohio on Saturday afternoon, which officials believe was caused by the injection of fracking wastewater into a “disposal” well there, was big enough to scare many residents:

Area residents said a loud boom accompanied the shaking. It sent some stunned residents running for cover as bookshelves shook and pictures and lamps fell from tables.

A few miles from the epicenter, Charles Kihm said he was preparing food in his kitchen when he heard a noise and thought a vehicle had hit his Austintown home.

“It really shook, and it rumbled, like there was a sound,” said Kihm, 82. “It was loud. It didn’t last long. But it really scared me.”

Patti Gorcheff, who lives about 15 miles from the epicenter, said her dogs started barking inexplicably Saturday and the ornaments on her Christmas tree began to shake. Her husband thought he heard the sound of some sort of blast.

“This is the biggest one we’ve had so far,” said Gorcheff, a North Lima resident who has raised concerns about quakes and drilling-related activity in the region. “I hope this is a wake-up call.”

A wake-up call is clearly needed, as fracking-related earthquakes from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and now Ohio have been accumulating over the past two years and this was a big one. It shouldn’t take stunned residents running in fear, with nowhere to run to, to get officials to shut down fracking flowback reinjection wells. The well in Ohio was shut down on Friday, but not fast enough to prevent this big quake.

Even more significantly, at least 43 Oklahoma earthquakes have been linked by the Oklahoma Geological Survey to hydraulic fracturing itself. The earthquakes, which kicked off the New Year last year, were large enough to cause shaking at the surface; it was concerned residents’ phone calls which alerted the geologists to begin with. They occurred within 24 hours after the deepest stage of hydraulic fracturing, and they occurred at the depth of that fracking stage. Geologists in Oklahoma, while carefully defining a margin of error, have basically concluded that the earthquakes were caused by fracking. The complete report on those January 2011 earthquakes is here.

Please begin this new year by pushing in earnest for a moratorium on high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling, popularly known simply as “fracking,” in Pennsylvania and throughout the Marcellus Shale region. It’s unacceptable to use residents of the Marcellus Shale region as guinea pigs for an extreme form of fossil fuel extraction, a new combination of technologies which results in dangerous toxic waste. Fracking speeds up climate change. It causes earthquakes, poisons air and water, kills animals, makes some people acutely sick in the short run and guarantees many thousands of premature deaths from lung disease, cancer, and other health problems which will impact our children more than ourselves.

No technology exists to extract methane from rock a mile and more under the earth’s surface in a way which is safe for the environment or for current and future generations. Let’s stop it now, leave it in the ground as a strategic reserve for our grandchildren, and focus on sane energy policies for 2012 and beyond. The melting Arctic ice is speaking to us in silence, while the earth itself is speaking to us loudly. It’s time to listen up.

Please call your state Senator and state Representative tomorrow, wish them a happy new year, and tell them you want a moratorium on gas drilling and you want it now. In PA you can find your Senator and Rep at

  1. Nick permalink
    January 2, 2012 10:32 am

    You have felt the “intensity” of these magnitudes if you have ever stood close to the road when a truck goes by.

  2. January 2, 2012 2:24 pm

    What’s worse is that earthquakes cause cement casings to crack and are clearly not good for the structural integrity of the steel wells. Once the wells aren’t perfectly sealed, aquifer contamination from dirty flowback water seems pretty much inevitable. These risks on account of the rare normal earthquakes (not caused by fracking) make a strong enough argument to not develop shale gas at all.

  3. Adam Durant permalink
    January 2, 2012 5:30 pm

    And in the UK also…

  4. Nick permalink
    January 2, 2012 10:07 pm

    The multiple steel casings across the shallow fresh water intervals are much more flexible than you seem to believe.

    Unfortunately, the argument to develop shale gas is one of energy production. Until our world community makes a conscious decision to stop using so much energy, we can’t afford not to develop all the energy producing sources we know how.


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