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Fracking foes challenge Ohio earthquake assurances

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 23, 2014 at 5:10 pm •  Published: April 23, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A citizens group said Wednesday it isn't taking the word of state regulators that new permitting guidelines will protect public health after earthquakes in northeast Ohio were linked to the gas drilling method of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Members of Youngstown-based Frackfree Mahoning Valley said the science behind the finding is a mystery, and new permit conditions the state is imposing in response do nothing to prevent future quakes.

"They're not going to stop any earthquakes, they're just going to pause activity when one is felt," said Youngstown State University geologist Ray Beiersdorfer, who's affiliated with the group.

A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies fracking in the Utica Shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault. The link has been classified as "probable."

The state placed a moratorium on drilling activity at the site near the epicenter of the quakes, while allowing five existing wells to continue production.

Beiersdorfer said the Ohio Department of Natural Resources should have produced a scientific report to accompany a geologist's conclusion linking Utica Shale fracking to earthquakes for the first time. Fully understanding the finding could help protect Ohioans from future fracking-related earthquakes, he said.

While earlier studies had linked earthquakes in the same region to deep-injection wells used for disposal of fracking wastewater, this marked the first time tremors in the region have been tied directly to fracking. The five seismic events in March couldn't be easily felt by people.

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