Scientists believe controversial oil drilling is causing Ohio earthquakes

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 - 1:54pm

The use of a controversial drilling technology known as "fracking" to extract oil and gas from underground shale has Ohio looking for a major economic boom.

But trouble at one disposal site for residue from the drilling process has some Ohioans concerned.

Some see the promise of thousands of jobs and an economic boom.

Others see outsiders getting rich at the expense of Ohio's environment.

Speculators are pouring into eastern Ohio to join the rush to use the new horizontal drilling
technology to extract oil and gas from underground shale.

Like all drilling for oil and gas, the process creates a watery brine that has to be disposed of by injecting it deep underground.

A disposal well in Youngstown has become the latest flashpoint for controversy.

Over the past two years there have been 11 earthquakes near the well, including the latest and largest, a 4.0 magnitude temblor on New Year's Eve.

Damage was minimal, and state officials have shut down the well to wait for some answers.

Now some think the state should shut down the drilling.

"At this point, you need a moratorium, basically, until we know what to do here, because quite frankly, we didn't have earthquakes in Youngstown. We have earthquakes in Youngstown now," says ProgressOhio executive director Brian Rothenberg.

The association that represents the oil and gas industry says there are close to 180 similar disposal wells around the state that for years have been safely disposing of seven million barrels of brine a year without incident.

"To my knowledge there has not been any event like this before, so what I think we're dealing with here is a specific anomaly, some time of geologic anomaly specific to this one local well," says Tom Stewart, vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

Stewart says it's wrong to try to connect the injection well and the earthquakes to the fracking boom.

"At some point your concern about creating a job has to be outweighed by the environmental impact and devastation it's going to do to businesses and homes and people, which is what's happening in Youngstown," Rothenberg argues.
 

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