A state-led initiative, appropriately named StatesFirst, released a 150-page report on Monday (9/28) regarding proper guidelines and advice for dealing with human-induced earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing or fracking wastewater disposal, according to the Associated Press and reported by ABCnews.com. The biggest takeaway? Blanket regulations and procedures are not the answer.
“A one-size-fits-all approach would not be an effective tool for state regulators,” the report concluded.
The group is a partnership of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council that includes seismologists, industry experts, academics, along with state leaders and policy makers.
The report, entitled “Potential Injection-Induced Seismicity Associated with Oil and Gas Development,” is one of the first to tackle the issue head-on after years of ambiguity and uncertainty as to if there was a causation effect between fracking and earthquakes.
One of the key aspects of the piece is the inclusion of real-life examples of how different states handled local seismic activity and the following public relations strategies. One of the co-chairs of the project, Ohio Oil and Gas Chief Rick Simmers, told the AP their group was specifically avoiding any sort of uniform model because of how unique each state’s laws and geography are.
“Overall the risk of induced seismicity for oil and gas operation is still low,” said Simmers in a press release on the organization’s website. “It is clear that local factors in different parts of the country present different levels of risk. Because of this, risk management, mitigation, and response strategies are most effective when developed considering specific local geology, surface conditions as well as other local situations.”
The topic has picked up attention over the last couple years after five tremors in Ohio in April 2014 were linked to nearby fracking projects. At that time it was only the second of such instances in the U.S. where fracking was associated with earthquakes and the fourth such incident in the world.
With the amount of fracking expected to increase over the coming years, these guidelines could prove to be very useful. In 2013, there were two million hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells in the U.S., and up to 95% of all new wells utilize fracking, according to the Department of Energy.
Of course, there are still the people who oppose fracking efforts in virtually all aspects. Susie Beiersdorfer is part of Frackfree Mahoning, a Youngstown-based opposition group, and doesn’t believe the results are worth the public safety risk.
“The risk of causing larger, damaging, even life-threatening earthquakes is too high a price to pay,” Beiersdorfer said. “We refuse to be unwilling human subjects in what essentially is an earthquake prevention experiment.”
Unfortunately for her, unwilling participants are exactly what they’ll have to be for the time being. Beiersdorfer and other opponents will also have to hope that the efforts of Simmers, StatesFirst, and others involved in the project continue to provide valuable information and advice on a case-by-case basis.