ODNR finds "probable connection" between fracking and earthquake - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

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ODNR finds "probable connection" between fracking and earthquakes

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources plans issued a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing within a three mile radius of last month's earthquakes in Poland Township.

In early March, several tremors were reported in the area of gas wells near the Carbon Limestone Landfill in Poland.

Five earthquakes were measured over the course of two days at that time.

The moratorium means there will be no permits issued until further notice for hydraulic fracturing wells and existing wells will not be permitted to do any new drilling or fracturing.

Meanwhile, ODNR has changes its permitting process.    Permits issued by ODNR for horizontal drilling within 3 miles of a known fault or area of seismic activity greater than 2.0 magnitude would require companies to install seismic monitors.  If seismic activity in excess of 1.0 magnitude is recorded, activities will be paused.  If the investigation reveals a probably connection to hydraulic fracturing, activities will be suspended.

"This will allow us to determine if something does happen.  This new data will allow us to be able to find out what caused the potential event and determine if it was natural or if it did in fact relate to oil and gas activity," said Mark Bruce a spokesperson with ODNR.

While scientists have made links in the past between injection wells and seismic activity, this is the first time in the United States a probable connection has been made between hydraulic fracturing and seismic activity.

"We need to be cautious.  With any industry there are inherent risks, but the idea is to identify those risks and then minimize those risks and that is what we are trying to do," said Ohio State Representative Sean O'Brien.

Dr. Jeffrey Dick, the chair of the Geological and Environmental Sciences Department at Youngstown State University believes ODNR'S new permit conditions are the best possible solution.  He says seismic monitors are very reliable.  However, it's impossible to identify every fault line.

"It would be silly, in my opinion, to shutdown all oil and gas operations because there is a suspected link between earthquake activity and hydraulic fracturing.  It makes far better sense to put the proper monitoring equipment in place and go from there," said Dr. Jeffrey Dick with Youngstown State University.

According to ODNR, HilCorp will be able to recover resources from their five existing wells as long as seismic monitors are installed.  HilCorp released a statement saying they "remain fully committed to public safety and acting in a manner consistent with being a good corporate citizen in the communities where we operate."

Meanwhile, the Ohio Gas Association released a statement saying they believe the seismic activity in Poland Township was "a rare and isolated event that should not cast doubt about the safety of hydraulic fracturing, a process that has been conducted on more than one million oil and gas wells in the U.S., including 80,000 in Ohio, since the 1950s."

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