EARTHWORKS

Frackquakes – Californians as guinea pigs

Jhon Arbelaez's avatar
By Jhon Arbelaez

April 22, 2014

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Does fracking cause earthquakes? California regulators won’t answer the question. The subject is currently not studied in the Golden State, and for years, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), has refused to look into it.

Fortunately, other states, scientists , and organizations have studied this.

And based on those conclusions, the Los Angeles Times recently editorialized in favor of a moratorium on fracking until DOGGR can provide answers for Californians.

It’s possible that DOGGR refuses to look because (a) Governor Brown infamously supports fracking, and (b) if DOGGR looks for answers, they’re afraid of what they might find.

That’s because not only does fracking wastewater injection clearly induce earthquakes, but Ohio state regulators have recently directly tied a swarm of earthquake activity to hydraulic fractured wells. In the Ohio case, no reinjection wells were located near the fracked wells, and the state has developed new rules for monitoring seismic activity.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has recommended that states continue to look into induced earthquakes from fracking, and take appropriate action to protect lives and infrastructure. Unfortunately, California has so far failed to accomplish this. New regulations for fracking that came into effect in January 2014, fail to properly monitor induced seismicity near fracked and underground injection wells.

Our recent study, On Shaky Ground: Fracking, Acidizing, and Increased Earthquake Risk in California, compiles available data on induced seismicity throughout the world, and analyzes the possible risks in California. The analysis concluded that a large percentage (54%) of California’s injection wells are located within just 10 miles of an active seismic fault. Many of these wells are located near heavily populated areas, such as Los Angeles and Bakersfield.

Additionally, DOGGR requires no seismic monitoring near injection wells, or production wells that are actively fracked. It is because of this increasing risks, and the significant knowledge gaps that exist in our state’s monitoring system, that the state cannot safely regulate current and future drilling in the Monterey Shale.

With large scale development, fracking, and acidizing planned for California, it is necessary to fully understand the risks before production begins in such an actively seismic state. It is unknown what effects expanded fracking will have, if it will produce additional earthquakes, or if it will lead to the “big one.”

Although current regulations are in place to protect health and other natural resources, a new bill, SB1132, sponsored by Senators Mitchell and Leno, would impose a moratorium on fracking and other forms of well stimulation, until he practices are proven safe. The bill expands upon the environmental impact assessment currently being conducted by the state.

With the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times, and other major business, environmental, and energy organizations throughout the state, along with millions of California citizens, it is time for elected officials to halt this harmful practice, until it can be proven safe.

We urge all Californians to contact their legislators and senators and ask them to support SB1132. Tell them to stop Californians, our homes, and our communities as fracking guinea pigs. The bill moves to the hearings on the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 30.

Tagged with: sb1132, fracking, earthquakes, california

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