Hydraulic fracturing – better known as fracking – has been popping up in New Jersey a lot lately. It’s a process whereby natural gas is shaken loose and captured from deep underground deposits. Fracking is widely controversial for multiple reasons, all of which relate to the safety of the practice. We’ve reported on it a few times here at Blue Jersey.
Well, it looks like those urging caution and re-evaluation of the practice might not be alarmist party poopers after all. In Youngstown, Ohio, fracking waste water caused two earthquakes on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. The quakes measured 2.7 and 4.0 respectively on the Richter scale; they did little damage and no one was injured. However, scientists know for sure that the quakes were in fact caused by the operation of a fracking waste water injection well used by nearby Northstar Disposal Services. How do they know this? Because between March and November of 2011, nine earthquakes took place in the otherwise earthquake-free Youngstown area. Nine! And so the Ohio Department of Natural Resources teamed up with scientists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LEDO) to place seismographs around the area, to test what seemed like the glaringly obvious answer: that the fracking waste water operation was, in fact, causing earthquakes.
The Christmas and New Years quakes provided the LEDO scientists with conclusive evidence – with a 95% rate of certainty, that fracking caused all 11 earthquakes in Youngstown, Ohio between March and New Year’s Eve.
Fracking – it makes people sick, makes tap water flammable, fills dangerous pipelines and CAUSES EARTHQUAKES.
Here in the Garden State, the latest action in this fight came in November when the Delaware River Basin Commission decided to postpone a vote on natural gas regulations which could have opened the door to the construction of up to 35,000 fracking wells in the Delaware basin. That basin provides drinking water for 15.6 million people – 5% of the population of the United States. The postponement of the vote was considered a victory by environmentalists, but it was only a delay – not an outright rejection of fracking.
New Jersey should ban fracking, as well as the transport of natural gas acquired through the process – at the very least until the EPA completes its study on the practice’s safety, which concludes in 2014. (One can only hope the EPA will incorporate the Youngstown earthquakes into their final report.) This summer, legislation banning the practice was sent to Governor Christie; he issued a conditional veto, weakening the ban to a one-year moratorium with no teeth and all of the important loose ends left un-tied. And though legislators are currently considering override legislation that could protect NJ against future DRBC regulation changes, it’s not clear why the DRBC would move on fracking at all without some clarity from the EPA.
And if you know anyone in Ohio, they can help by signing here.