Sunday, November 15, 2015

Do Fracking Wastewater Injections Cause Earthquakes?

By Sara Jerome:

Legal experts say there are a rising number of lawsuits against the oil and gas industry over earthquakes allegedly linked to fracking operations.

“Sandra Ladra, a resident of Prague, Oklahoma sued New Dominion LLC and Spess Oil Co. alleging that an earthquake triggered by the companies’ disposal of fracking wastewater in wells near her home caused a portion of her chimney to collapse,” the legal intelligence source JD Supra reported.

“The decision paves the way for such disputes to be heard by a jury. Several recent reports by academics and regulators purporting to find a link between wastewater injection wells and seismic activity have resulted in the proliferation of similar lawsuits in Oklahoma and in other states like Arkansas where fracking is common,” the report said.

Research has linked earthquakes to fracking wastewater injection wells, raising policy and legal questions about the consequences of fracking.

According to scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, the federal scientific agency, "the deep injection of wastewater underground is responsible for the dramatic rise in the number of earthquakes in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001." They published these findings in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America last year.

And research from University of Colorado scientists concluded that “the massive increase in earthquakes in central Oklahoma is likely being caused by the injection of vast amounts of wastewater from oil and gas operations into underground layers of rock,” according to an announcement from the university. “Under high pressure, fluids can seep into existing faults and pry apart the rocks, allowing them to slip past each other more easily and cause earthquakes."

Arguing that fracking is safe, the industry advocacy group Energy From Shale cites an Oklahoma Geological Survey study on earthquakes near fracking sites, which concluded that it was “impossible to say with a high degree of certainty whether  or not [the earthquakes examined in this particular study] were triggered by natural means  or by the nearby hydraulic-fracturing operation.”
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