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Rock Your World: 5.6 Magnitude Quake Linked to Fracking Re-injection

December 10, 2012
In “More Links Between Drilling and Earthquakes,” StateImpact’s Susan Phillips reports, “A new study links oil and gas drilling activity to earthquakes with more certainty.” The paper will be presented this week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, according to EnergyWire.  
          The paper comes at a time when residents of Pennsylvania are upset that suddenly hearings have been set for four re-injection wells this week. Pennsylvania regulators have not assessed cumulative impacts, including potential earthquakes, from these deep wells. All four permits should be denied. Details about each of those four hearings are listed below.
          According to the new study, the 1100 Arkansas earthquakes (including a 4.7), and the 4.0 Youngstown, Ohio earthquake, were not the biggest quakes yet caused by gas drilling waste re-injection. According to EnergyWire’s preview of the new paper, at least two larger quakes, a 5.3 and a 5.6, have been documented:

USGS scientists had been equivocal about links between drilling and chronic seismic activity near Trinidad, Colo., punctuated by a magnitude-5.3 convulsion in August 2011. According to an abstract for this week’s conference, they have now concluded that most, if not all, of the quakes “have been triggered by the deep injection of wastewater related to the production of natural gas from the coal-bed methane field here.”

University of Oklahoma seismologist Katie Keranen reported earlier this year that there was “a compelling link” between injection and the magnitude-5.6 earthquake in November that injured at least two people and damaged up to 200 structures east of Oklahoma City. Next week, she will present the results of a study done with researchers from USGS and Columbia finding that it was “likely triggered by fluid injection.”

Injuries? 200 structures damaged? Hundreds of earthquakes? Why not call for a halt on any new permits for fracking waste re-injection wells, while scientists present this brand-new data and figure out what the frack is going on?The industry strategy has been to continually deny the now-obvious fact that hundreds of earthquakes have resulted from re-injecting fracking waste. Their other strategy is to minimize the human experience. But Arkansas residents aren’t having that.

“Rock Your World”

ABC News quotes Arkansas resident Susan Fry, “This house was swaying… you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster… I’ve never been so scared in my life.”  The earthquakes (over 1100 recorded) became so frequent she installed a plumb line.

“It gives new meaning to the term ‘rock your world,'” said resident Johnny Passmore. “There is no foundation. You are just shaking and you can’t go anywhere because it’s shaking.”

In February [2011], shocks from a 4.7-magnitude earthquake near the town were felt as far away as Memphis, Tenn., the biggest quake in the region in 35 years.

Listen to upset Arkansas residents describing their earthquake experiences — as well as the voices of geologists, industry denialists, and regulators — here.

When two Arkansas injection wells were shut down by regulators, the earthquakes’ frequency immediately went down by 50%. Arkansas residents are “100% convinced” that the quakes resulted from fracking waste re-injection. But the industry– especially heavy Pennsylvania driller Chesapeake Energy, the company that bankrolled both Governor Corbett and, until recently, the Sierra Club — continues to deny the link.

If science matters, it sounds like this week’s presentation at the American Geophysical Union should put an end to that denial.

Chesapeake Energy is based in Oklahoma, where geologists have suggested that fracking itself — fracturing shale, not just re-injecting fracking waste — has caused 43 earthquakes. Seems like another kind of shakeup is needed.

Western Pennsylvania, where the four re-injection well permit hearings will be held this week, has geology similar to that of northeastern Ohio, where the 4.0 quake, caused by one re-injection well near Youngstown, struck less than one year ago.

Urgent Request for Help from Western PA

Four New Re-Injection Wells Hearings This Week

Clearfield County Dec 10th-An EPA hearing for a Class 2D disposal injection well will be held on

When: Monday Dec. 10 at 7 p.m.

Where: Brady Township Community Center’s building No. 2; 71 Community Center St., Luthersburg, PA 15848

Elk County Dec 11th-Injection well #38268 – Elk County, Highland Township, PA – Seneca Resources Corporation

When: Tuesday, Dec.11 at 7 p.m.

Where: The EPA hearing will be held at the fire hall in Highland Township, James City. PA

Warren County Dec 12th Two injection wells EPA hearing,

When: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 – 6:00 pm

Where: Columbus Township Fire Department, 44 North St. near Bear Lake in Warren County

No New Permits: Nine Reasons

There are many other great reasons to oppose permitting re-injection of toxic radioactive fracking waste deep underground. No one knows if all the hazardous waste will stay underground “forever.” Trucks in PA are not required to track their waste loads with a manifest system, making continued illegal dumping of fracking waste likely. Toxic spills are inevitable. The disposal wells malfunction, leaking into surface water and groundwater. The land becomes compacted as well as contaminated.

Disposal creates the illusion that there is an “away” in which it is appropriate to dump carcinogenic chemicals, radioactive materials, biocides and endocrine disruptors. But as Sandra Steingraber points out, there is a form of life she calls “deep life” which scientists are just beginning to understand, living deep underground — which, of course, is killed by the toxic waste. This “away” illusion is also dangerous because it induces further fracking. All in all, re-injection wells are an absurdly bad idea, a bad use of resources and a threat to water and health. Add to that earthquakes, and every resident has reason to demand no new permits for re-injection wells.

Less than a year ago, the Washington Post reports, Youngstown, Ohio residents found their earthquake scary:

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.”

Raise the cry: No new permits for re-injection wells.

2 Comments
  1. j jongen permalink
    December 10, 2012 11:29 am

    All of the re-injection fluids are toxic flowback brine from hydraulic fracturing for shale gas. It is the fresh water from streams and aquifers that is forever removed from agricultural production and from potable water supplies for millions of the residents and animals living near fracking wells. Each of these wells uses up to several million gallons of public water.

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