Quantcast

8 States Dealing With Huge Increases in Fracking Earthquakes

A new report, released Thursday from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), identified eight states in the eastern and central U.S. where fracking operations have led to dramatic increases in earthquakes, primarily from the injection of the wastewater byproduct of drilling operations into underground wells. This process can activate faults that in some cases were previously unknown.

The injection of fracking wastewater into underground wells has exploded the amount of earthquake activity in previously inactive regions of the county. Image credit: USGS

"Earthquake activity has sharply increased since 2009 in the central and eastern United States. The increase has been linked to industrial operations that dispose of wastewater by injecting it into deep wells," the report says bluntly, in a rebuke to the earthquake deniers in the oil and gas industry, such as fracking founder Harold Hamm, who pressured Oklahoma officials to stay silent about the connection.

While Oklahoma, Texas and Ohio have gotten much of the attention for increases in seismicity in areas where earthquakes were once rare, they aren't the only states in danger of more and larger earthquakes. The USGS report also pointed to Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico and identified 17 zones within the eight states in particular danger from an increased number of what it calls "induced" quakes.

The report, Incorporating Induced Seismicity in the 2014 United States National Seismic Hazard Model, analyzed these seismic activity increases and developed the models to project how hazardous earthquakes could be in these in these zones, taking into account their rates, locations, maximum magnitude and ground motions.

“This new report describes for the first time how injection-induced earthquakes can be incorporated into U.S. seismic hazard maps,” said Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Modeling Project. “These earthquakes are occurring at a higher rate than ever before and pose a much greater risk to people living nearby. The USGS is developing methods that overcome the challenges in assessing seismic hazards in these regions in order to support decisions that help keep communities safe from ground shaking.”

The USGS has previously released National Seismic Hazard maps, used for insurance purposes, building codes and emergency response plans, outlining the hazards of naturally occurring earthquakes. They projected the likelihood of a quake over 50 years, the average lifespan of a building.

Seventeen zones in eight states in in increased jeopardy from fracking-induced earthquakes. Image credit: USGS

"However, these new induced seismicity products display intensity of potential ground shaking from induced earthquakes in a one-year period," said the study. "This shorter timeframe is appropriate because the induced activity can vary rapidly with time and is subject to commercial and policy decisions that could change at any point."

That's a reference to the varying state regulations about allowing injection or accepting wastewater byproducts from other states. For instance, because of lax regulation in Ohio, the state receives millions of gallons of wastewater from heavily fracked Pennsylvania where injection wells are subject to stricter rules.

The report also states, "Many questions have been raised about whether hydraulic fracturing—commonly referred to as 'fracking'—is responsible for the recent increase of earthquakes. USGS’s studies suggest that the actual hydraulic fracturing process is only occasionally the direct cause of felt earthquakes." But it says, "Large volumes of wastewater can result from a variety of processes, such as a byproduct from energy production. Wastewater injection increases the underground pore pressure, which may lubricate nearby faults thereby making earthquakes more likely to occur."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Confirmed: Oklahoma Earthquakes Caused By Fracking

Scientists Say Small Fracking Earthquakes Could Lead to Major Ones

Staggering Rise in Fracking Earthquakes Triggers Kansas to Take Action

Sponsored
Prince William and British naturalist David Attenborough attend converse during the World Economic Forum annual meeting, on January 22 in Davos, Switzerland. Fabrice Cofferini /AFP / Getty Images

Britain's Prince William interviewed famed broadcaster David Attenborough on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Switzerland.

During the sit-down, the 92-year-old naturalist advised the world leaders and business elite gathered in Davos this week that we must respect and protect the natural world, adding that the future of its survival—as well as humanity's survival—is in our hands.

Read More Show Less
EV charging lot in Anaheim, California. dj venus / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Electric vehicle sales took off in 2018, with a record two million units sold around the world, according to a new Deloitte analysis.

What's more, the accounting firm predicts that another 21 million electric cars will be on the road globally over the next decade due to growing market demand for clean transportation, government subsidies, as well as bans on fossil fuel cars.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Teenager Alex Weber and friends collected nearly 40,000 golf balls hit into the ocean from a handful of California golf courses. Alex Weber / CC BY-ND

By Matthew Savoca

Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.

As a scientist researching marine plastic pollution, I thought I had seen a lot. Then, early in 2017, I heard from Alex Weber, a junior at Carmel High School in California.

Read More Show Less
Southwest Greenland had the most consistent ice loss from 2003 to 2012. Eqalugaarsuit, Ostgronland, Greenland on Aug. 1, 2018. Rob Oo / CC BY 2.0

Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.

"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"

Read More Show Less
Seismic tests are a precursor to offshore drilling for oil and gas. BSEE

Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.

The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.

Read More Show Less
Brazil, Pantanal, water lilies. Nat Photos / DigitalVision / Getty Images Plus

Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.

Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

Read More Show Less
Demonstrators participate in a protest march over agricultural policy on Jan. 19 in Berlin, Germany. Carsten Koall / Getty Images Europe

By Andrea Germanos

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.

Read More Show Less
MarioGuti / iStock / Getty Images

By Patrick Rogers

If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Read More Show Less