Appalachian Basin

New Ohio Study on Fracking and Earthquakes Is Not So New

The Seismological Society of America released a report today, which linked hydraulic fracturing to earthquakes in Poland Township, Ohio, in March 2014. Thankfully, that incident produced no structural damage or injuries, as the seismic events were too small.

If this sounds familiar, it should — because the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) studied that same event almost a year ago, using it as the basis to impose new permitting requirements on operators. EID reported on the event and the permitting changes shortly thereafter.

A separate study, issued in October of last year, also examined earthquakes in Ohio, calling them “rare and uncommon” and being of “mostly inconsequential magnitudes.” The incident in Poland Township was one of the many areas examined.

Experience to date confirms what that existing research suggested. As Ohio closed out 2014, 1,300 hydraulically fractured wells were on the books – and since the state took action in April, there have not been any noticeable earthquakes in eastern Ohio. That was the goal of ODNR’s permitting requirements, announced last April:

“While we can never be 100 percent sure that drilling activities are connected to a seismic event, caution dictates that we take these new steps to protect human health, safety and the environment,” ODNR Director James Zehringer said in a statement. “Not only will this reasonable course of action help to ensure public health and safety, but it will also help us to expand our underground maps and provide more information about all types of seismicity in Ohio.”

Interestingly, the Seismological Society of America report concluded:

“It makes sense to have close cooperation among government, industry and the scientific community as hydraulic fracturing operations expand in areas where there’s the potential for unknown pre-existing faults.”

Again, if that sounds familiar, it should: ODNR’s new permitting requirements were done “in response to recent seismic events in Poland Township (Mahoning County) that show a probable connection to hydraulic fracturing near a previously unknown microfault.” (emphasis added)

In other words, ODNR didn’t wait for a report – issued nine months later – to tell them how they should address the problem. In fact, in October 2014, a multistate delegation of regulators even met in Ohio to discuss the issue of seismic activity.  Additionally, some of the industry’s toughest critics and most vocal opponents have praised the response by ODNR to the Poland Township incident.

Then-State Representative Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown) – who famously joined a “national call to action day to ban fracking” last year – even said he believed ODNR acted appropriately. “I think they did the right thing,” Hagan said of ODNR’s April permitting revisions.

So, while some in the media have already reported on this latest study as news, those of us who live and work in Ohio know better.


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