Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.
A series of Ohio earthquakes is being blamed on fracking.
The area around Youngstown, in the state’s northeast corner, has seen 11 minor quakes in recent months, the Associated Press reports. The last was a 4.0 on New Year’s Eve that reportedly was felt as far away as Buffalo.
The AP cites a seismologist who says the quakes were almost certainly caused by operations at an injection well used for the disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations. The state has temporarily closed that well and others nearby.
The theory is that when the wastewater is shot back into the ground, it can slip into cracks along a fault line and “act like a hydraulic jack” to trigger quakes, the Christian Science Monitor explains.
The quakes could continue for up to a year even after the well is closed, the AP’s expert warns.
So, is Republican Gov. John Kasich, a big fracking supporter, concerned? Not very. His spokesman told the AP it would be foolish to punish the fracking industry for problems with wastewater disposal.
“That would be the equivalent of shutting down the auto industry because a scrap tire dump caught fire somewhere,” he said.
The AP notes that the number of fracking permits in Ohio rose from one in 2006 to at least 32 in 2011.
Small earthquakes in England and elsewhere have been attributed to injection wells used in fracking operations, while their potential to cause larger quakes such as the record 5.6 temblor that hit Oklahoma in November has been hotly debated.
For more, NPR has an audio interview with John Armbruster of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the seismologist cited in the AP piece.