COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio is leading a group of drilling states working with seismology experts from energy companies, government agencies and universities across the U.S. on how best to detect and regulate human-induced earthquakes. The initiative follows Ohio’s discovery in April of a probable link between the drilling practice called hydraulic fracturing and five small tremors in eastern Ohio, a first in the Northeast.
In 2012, Gov. John Kasich halted disposal of fracking wastewater surrounding a well site in the same region after a series of earthquakes later tied to a deep-injection well. The company that ran the well has disputed the link.
Ohio Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers said in an Associated Press interview that state regulators are seeking up-to-date information so they can develop appropriate detection procedures and regulatory practices.
“I think we’re being proactive in some ways,” he said. “We’re not waiting until something bad happens. We’re trying to figure out how to, in a regulatory sense, address this rather than waiting.”
Simmers said a dozen states, including Ohio, Texas and Oklahoma, showed up at the first meeting of the States First initiative last month. Representatives of the Groundwater Protection Council, the state-led Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and research institutions such as Stanford University, the University of Southern California and the University of Texas also came.
This week, a second meeting was arranged that will be expanded to additional interested parties, he said.
“What we’re seeing is states are seeing an increase in (seismic) activity,” Simmers said. “Then we have to take a step back and say which of these events are anthropogenic,” or human-induced.
Ohio environmental activist Teresa Mills said putting a stop to fracking is the most effective way to halt the quakes.
“You can’t regulate away an earthquake. That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard,” said Mills, of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. “You can stop man-made earthquakes by not doing what’s causing them.”
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I think we’re being proactive in some ways. We’re not waiting until something bad happens. We’re trying to figure out how to, in a regulatory sense, address this rather than waiting.”
Ohio Oil & Gas Chief