Fracking “probable cause” of Ohio earthquakes in 2011

Several small earthquakes that affected the northwest region of the United States during 2011 were probably caused by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” concludes the latest report by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), which regulates the oil and gas industry in the state.

The study, published on Friday, says that while extremely rare “a number of co-occurring circumstances strongly indicate the Youngstown area earthquakes were induced [by fracking].”

The report states that well operators had requested two increases to injection pressure at sites near an underground fault. Shortly after, a wave of minor earthquakes had happened, adds ODNR’s document.

It also recommends that companies are forced to “review existing geologic data” in the future before drilling, adding that the Government should introduce monitoring systems with automatic shut-off for drill sites.

The findings about the likely origin of the earthquakes, which occurred in the Youngstown area of Ohio between March and late December 2011, are expected to exacerbate the debate about the safety of hydraulic fracturing in zones located atop natural gas deposits.

Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources, which had previously endorsed the safety of hydraulic fracturing, issued new regulations for transporting and disposing of brine wastewater, a fracking by-product, making for the nation’s toughest disposal regulations, officials said.

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