Unless you’ve been living under a shale rock, you know that on New Year’s Eve a 4.0 earthquake shook Youngstown, Ohio.
People as far away as Toronto, Ontario felt the tremor. And the political shock waves that hit the Statehouse in Columbus have yet to subside.
That’s because this quake threatened more than just dishes and wall hangings. This tremor threatens to shake up the routine practice of disposing of the billions of gallons of toxic-laced wastewater from oil and gas drilling in ancient geologic formations that lie deep beneath the Earth’s surface in Ohio.
And without ready access to Ohio’s 181 deep injection waste wells, the oil and gas industry’s plans to “frack” its way through the shale gas deposits that underlie much of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia could grind to a halt.
Each fracking job involves millions of gallons of water and tons of sand and chemicals to shatter the shale rock and release the trapped oil and gas. A significant portion of these fluids along with brine waters in the rock formations comes back to the surface along with the oil and gas. This wastewater must then be safely handled and disposed of.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, wastewater associated with shale gas extraction can contain high levels of total dissolved solids, fracturing fluid additives (which include a number of toxic constituents, including Benzene—which is known to cause cancer—Ethylbenzene, Toulene, Xylene and diesel fuel), metals and naturally occurring radioactive materials (including uranium, thorium, radium and lead-210).
About 15 percent of that water comes back up, tainted with salt, drilling chemicals and hazardous metals. After they’re “fracked,” the wells continue to produce brine that contains higher concentrations of salt, metals and minerals.
The State of Ohio requires disposal of oil and gas wastewater and brine in underground injection wells. During the first quarter of 2011, nearly half the brine that went into disposal wells in Ohio came from Pennsylvania and other states, according to state officials. That’s 1.18 million barrels of brine, enough to fill 76 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
New Year’s Eve wasn’t the first inkling that something had gone awry. According to regulators at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), an injection well in Youngstown Township experienced a score of low-level seismic events throughout 2011. The tremors were worrisome enough that ODNR invited Columbia University scientists to help pinpoint their source.
ODNR and Columbia scientists concluded that an earthquake occurred on Christmas Eve at approximately two miles below and one mile within the injection site. To his credit, ODNR Director James Zehringer promptly asked the disposal well operator to cease all operations. The tremors subsided—till Dec. 31.
The oil and gas industry suggests that the Youngstown event was an isolated one. Prominent research scientists disagree.
Columbia University scientists suggest it is no coincidence that the Youngstown earthquake was so proximate to the well site. They say the depth of the New Year’s Eve quake (approximately 1.7 miles) is different from that of a natural earthquake. They also believe the proximity in the time and space of the earthquakes matches operations at the injection well.
In response, State Rep. Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown) and other lawmakers have called for a moratorium on any new injection wells.
For months, industry spin doctors have assured Ohioans that some of the toughest regulations on the planet are in place to control oil and gas drilling. They’d have you believe that Ohio has done something that officials in neighboring Pennsylvania—a state racked by fracking incidents—somehow couldn’t figure out. Namely, erecting an impenetrable backstop of regulations capable of stopping most any runs, leaks or errors from fouling the environment, and yet still allow industry to tap the gas.
Industry’s blithe reassurances notwithstanding, the Ohio Environmental Council has released a series of reforms to shore up Ohio’s oil and gas waste disposal laws. This comprehensive package of safeguards— http://bit.ly/whzTvO—includes more meaningful public comment, mandatory seismic monitoring and first-ever groundwater monitoring.
Without strong public support, though, the Hagan moratorium and the OEC reforms may linger on a Statehouse shelf. Until a devastating frack-quake shakes Ohio.
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Betsy Mason
For decades, climate scientist David Keith of Harvard University has been trying to get people to take his research seriously. He's a pioneer in the field of geoengineering, which aims to combat climate change through a range of technological fixes. Over the years, ideas have included sprinkling iron in the ocean to stimulate plankton to suck up more carbon from the atmosphere or capturing carbon straight out of the air.
Solar geoengineering would involve injecting reflective aerosols from high-altitude planes into the layer of the upper atmosphere known as the stratosphere, which stretches between 10 to 50 kilometers (6 to 31 miles) above Earth's surface. The idea is that the aerosol particles would reflect a small amount of sunlight away from the planet, reducing the amount of heat trapped by greenhouse gases and mitigating some of the effects of climate change.
The planned Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment will send a balloon carrying scientific instruments in a gondola into the stratosphere. The instruments will release a small amount of material — likely ice or mineral dust — to form a kilometer-long plume of aerosol particles (left). Modified airboat propellers will allow the gondola to maneuver above the plume (middle) and lower instruments into the plume to take repeated measurements of how the particles spread through the stratosphere (right). ADAPTED FROM J.A. DYKEMA ET AL / PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A 2014
David Keith envisions using multiple approaches to combat climate change. The red line shows how the impacts of climate change would worsen with a business-as-usual scenario of unabated burning of fossil fuels and other greenhouse gas emissions. Aggressively cutting emissions bends that curve, and removing carbon from the atmosphere offers further cuts, but there are still consequences from the already high levels of carbon dioxide. In this scenario, solar geoengineering would lessen the impact from existing atmospheric carbon dioxide, effectively carving the top off the curve.<p>Some people think we should use it only as a get-out-of-jail card in an emergency. Some people think we should use it to quickly try to get back to a preindustrial climate. I'm arguing we use solar geoengineering to cut the top off the curve by gradually starting it and gradually ending it.</p><p><strong>Do you feel optimistic about the chances that solar geoengineering will happen and can make a difference in the climate crisis?</strong></p><p>I'm not all that optimistic right now because we seem to be so much further away from an international environment that's going to allow sensible policy. And that's not just in the US. It's a whole bunch of European countries with more populist regimes. It's Brazil. It's the more authoritarian India and China. It's a more nationalistic world, right? It's a little hard to see a global, coordinated effort in the near term. But I hope those things will change.</p>
- Geoengineering is Not the Answer to Climate Change - EcoWatch ›
- Can Geoengineering Tame Devastating Hurricanes? - EcoWatch ›
- World's Largest Geoengineering Study Triggers Major Controversy ... ›
By Lisa Newcomb
Analysis released Thursday of the world's top 10 biggest plastic polluters in 15 countries reveals how major corporations hide behind the veneer of corporate responsibility while actively working to thwart regulatory legislation around the globe.
<div id="5899a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f2af5e24600e9a04a59098846be0795c"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306489782529335296" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Out now! 📢 Our ground-breaking new report reveals the hypocrisy of the world’s biggest #plasticpolluters, who claim… https://t.co/TWutruUlqA</div> — Changing Markets Foundation (@Changing Markets Foundation)<a href="https://twitter.com/ChangingMarkets/statuses/1306489782529335296">1600326412.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="688ca" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3370c14123ff2ac521085479120d1260"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306488205198401536" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">DELAY, DISTRACT and DERAIL: 3 tactics that help Big Plastic fight plastic legislation behind the scenes across the… https://t.co/f29Pc86aMj</div> — GAIA (@GAIA)<a href="https://twitter.com/GAIAnoburn/statuses/1306488205198401536">1600326036.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="eaab1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0f6dbe75ec7e7ed4656a767958238c89"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306313773511303169" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Amount of federal government subsidies given to the fossil fuel industry every year: $15 billion. The amount it sh… https://t.co/NRWQWRiw5f</div> — Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)<a href="https://twitter.com/SenSanders/statuses/1306313773511303169">1600284448.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Urbanic urged lawmakers to act to protect the planet.</p><p>"The voluntary initiatives and commitments by the industry have failed," she said in a statement. "Policymakers should look past the industry smokescreen and adopt proven, progressive legislation globally to create the systemic change that this crisis so urgently needs."</p>
- 22 Facts About Plastic Pollution (And 10 Things We Can Do About It ... ›
- Plastics: The History of an Ecological Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Atlantic Ocean Holds 10x More Plastic Pollution Than Previously ... ›
The secretive blueprints for two of the leading vaccine candidates for the coronavirus were released Thursday. Pfizer and Moderna became the first two companies among the nine leading vaccine candidates to share their study designs, hoping that the disclosures will create trust and clarity for the public, as The New York Times reported.
- Tapes Show Trump Knew Coronavirus Was Deadly While ... ›
- U.S. Sits out as World Leaders Pledge $8 Billion to Find a COVID-19 ... ›
- White House Ordered Coronavirus Meetings Be Classified - EcoWatch ›
- COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Put on Hold Over Safety Concerns ... ›
- Drugs Touted by Trump for COVID-19 Increase Heart Risks, Studies ... ›
New Zealand could be the first country in the world to require its major financial institutions to report on the risks posed by the climate crisis.