Ohio is now on a similar trajectory to Oklahoma, which saw a five-fold increase in earthquakes in 2014. A new study published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America has confirmed that a fracking operation near Poland Township in Ohio activated a previously unknown fault in the Earth, causing 77 earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 1.0 to 3.0 between March 4 and March 12 in 2014. The drilling company, Hilcorp Energy, was forced to halt operations by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on March 10 after nearby residents felt the 3.0-magnitude earthquake.
Robert Skoumal, who co-authored the study with Michael Brudzinski and Brian Currie at Miami University of Ohio, compared these earthquakes to well stimulation reports and found the earthquakes "coincided temporally and spatially with hydraulic fracturing at specific stages of the stimulation. The seismic activity outlined a roughly vertical, east-west oriented fault within one kilometer of the well." Fracking at other nearby wells did not produce seismic activity, which suggests that the fault is limited in its scope.
But, if Oklahoma's major increase in earthquakes tells us anything, it's that it could get worse for Ohio if fracking increases. From 1975 to 2008, Oklahoma averaged one to three earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater a year. In 2009, that number jumped to 20. In 2011, the Sooner state experienced its largest recorded quake with a magnitude of 5.7. In 2014, there were 564 quakes with a magnitude of 3 or greater, compared to only 100 in 2013. And 19 of those earthquakes were magnitude 4 or greater, the strength at which experts say significant damage can occur.
In May 2014, the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey reported that "the spike in the number of earthquakes meant it was much more likely that the state could suffer a damaging earthquake of magnitude 5.5 or greater." They also reported that fracking was "likely a contributing factor." The researchers believe Oklahoma's activity is spreading north into Kansas, which had only two earthquakes in 2013 but 42 in 2014. Most of those quakes were near the border with Oklahoma.
Skoumal also points out, “We just don’t know where all the faults are located.” That puts us at risk of activating more previously unknown faults and increasing the risk of damaging earthquakes. Governor Andrew Cuomo banned fracking in New York in December, citing earthquakes as one of the reasons along with concerns of contamination of drinking water and climate change.
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By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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