Hydraulic fracking is a method of getting gas out of the ground that's stirring controversy in Beauregard and Vernon Parishes. Lately there are questions about whether fracking or similar activity may cause earthquakes.
On New Year's Eve there was an earthquake in Youngstown, Ohio-- and some wonder if deep well injection of wastewater in the area may have triggered the quake and others.
The New Year's Eve earthquake registered 4.0 the Richter scale. Damage was minimal, but it left many wondering if the quake and ten others were trigger by an injection well used for wastewater disposal. Officials in Ohio say the well holds fluids from hydraulic fracturing-a process that creates wastewater in need of disposal.
Over the past two years there have been 11 earthquakes near the well, but some think the state should shut down the drilling. Says Brian Rothenberg with a group called ProgressOhio, "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."
Those who have been sounding the alarm against fracking in Beauregard and Vernon Parish think it makes sense that injecting fluids into the sub-surface would influence seismic activity. Says Bonnie McElroy, "They force this toxic wastewater down under pressure and if there are fault lines in the area, it certainly stands to reason that it could cause an earthquake."
Micah Pruitt is also a concerned citizen from Beauregard Parish. "What's happening, if you just picture in your mind, we're shoving, we're pressurizing the earth in areas that are sensitive to fault lines. So, we're encouraging these fault lines to slip and that's exactly what's happening."
But Don Briggs with the Louisiana Oil and Gas association says the disposal well in Ohio has nothing to do with hydraulic fracking and that either kind of well would cause an earthquake. "All the true experts including with EPA and other federal agencies say there's no correlation between disposal wells and the earthquakes at all."
Briggs quotes a scientist with U.S. Geological survey saying, "Fracking itself probably does not put enough energy into the ground to trigger an earthquake. They're not a safety hazard he said."
Apparently the well at issue in Ohio has been shut down pending further investigation. In Ohio they're said to have 177 such wells none of which have been connected to seismic activity.