In the township of Poland in Ohio a series of earthquakes were detected in March of 2014. These earthquakes coincided with fracking operations in that month. The conclusion of the study is that fracking operations caused these earthquakes. Five of these earthquakes were between 2.1 and 3.0. A 3.0 earthquake is a level which, according to the federal seismology services, is an experience similar to a large truck passing nearby.
It has been known for some time now that fracking causes large numbers of micro earthquakes. Fracking literally creates long micro fractures in rock formations. Injecting fracking fluid into these new fractures causes micro quakes. It is quite uncommon for fracking to cause larger earthquakes which can be felt by people on the surface. However the geography deep underground is not well understood in some regions. Sometimes fracking takes place in or near unknown fractures, creating risk for larger earthquakes as were detected in Poland Ohio.
“These earthquakes near Poland Township occurred in the Precambrian basement, a very old layer of rock where there are likely to be many pre-existing faults,” said Robert Skoumal who co-authored the study with Michael Brudzinski and Brian Currie at Miami University in Ohio. “This activity did not create a new fault, rather it activated one that we didn’t know about prior to the seismic activity.”
New mapping techniques are being developed to detect and map these deep faults. In the meantime the study calls for closer cooperation between industry, government regulators, and the scientific community to map these faults and prevent more serious earthquakes from occurring.
California is leading the way on fracking legislation, with the passage of California Senate Bill 4, frackers in California are now required to follow a new set of rules on disclosure of their fracking fluids and the impacts they have on the environment. The law requires that fracking operators publish the proportions, quantity, and chemical names of all of the components of their fracking fluid, and to provide free testing of water sources nearby the fracked wells. The law also requires disclosure on how much wastewater is produced, its chemical composition, and how it is disposed off. A particularly good measure will be a requirement for the monitoring of groundwater before, during, and after fracking operations.
The law is being attacked by both the fracking industry and environmentalists. Environmentalists see the law as too weak. One group sent a petition to Governor Brown of California, asking him to pass a ban on all fracking in the state. Industry groups have claimed that this bill will make it harder to frack and slow down growth in the state, threatening growth in California.
Fracking can cause contamination of aquifers and small earthquakes, as multiple studies have concluded. However, there has yet to be a comprehensive scientific study looking at large number of wells on the effects of fracking on ground water and seismic activity in a broad area. By making testing mandatory this law could provide clear and definitive data on fracking and foster a much better understanding of the practice. While some my say that a ban is necessary, it perhaps premature before a comprehensive scientific study has been conducted. Should the data this law will provide make it clear that fracking is an imminent danger to water quality, it would then be appropriate and necessary to pass a law banning the practice entirely.
ReThink Energy Florida is a Florida-based grass roots organization that seeks to to engage and educate Floridians on energy and environment issues to promote a more sustainable future. The provide tools, science based information, and services to help people educate themselves and to create a cleaner and safer energy future for Florida. If you want to learn more about fracking and what it looks like in Florida specifically, head over to their website at http://rethinkenergyflorida.org/index.php
Halt the Harm is a network of people spread across the United States working towards reducing and eliminating the harmful effects of fracking. Their website is full of articles about peer reviewed scientific studies being conducted on fracking and its health effects on people, and is an excellent resource for information on fracking. Anyone interested in learning about hydraulic fracturing and the effects its having in America should go check out their website at http://www.halttheharm.net/
New tools are being leveraged to better track emissions around the world. Using data from the European Space Agency’s Envisat satellite, researchers have been able to come up with more accurate measures for emissions coming from the 4 Corners region of the United States. According to their data, emissions are 1.8 times higher than recorded by the American Environmental Protection Agency.
If the estimates are accurate, then the Four Corners region may be responsible for 5% of all of the US methane emissions. However fracking is just getting started in this region, leading the researchers to conclude that many of these emissions are from preexisting sources such as coal mining and natural gas and oil production. Subsequent measurements taken at the ground confirmed that the EPA estimates of emissions were too low, but the
This study implies that emissions may be underestimated in series of regions across the United States and perhaps the world. While the study did not specifically quantify the proportion of these increased measured emissions attributable to fracking, fracking increasing in this region. This calls for a comprehensive reevaluation of emissions to be conducted using these new satellite based tools . Current methods of evaluating emissions that are not direct measures of emissions appear to have a bias to under represent actual emissions. Further this tool can be used to more easily identify increasing sources of methane emissions in both the United States and around the world.
Source: Kort, E. A., Frankenberg, C., Costigan, K. R. et al. (2014). Four corners: The largest US methane anomaly viewed from space. Geophysical Research Letters 41, DOI: 10.1002/2014GL061503.