State leaders have ordered that four fluid-injection wells in eastern Ohio will be "indefinitely" prohibited from opening in the aftermath of heightened seismic activity in the area, an official said.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer had announced on Friday that one such well -- which injects "fluid deep underground into porous rock formations, such as sandstone or limestone, or into or below the shallow soil layer," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains -- was closed after a series of small earthquakes in and around Youngstown.
Then on Saturday, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck that released at least 40 times more energy than any of the previous 10 or more tremors that had rattled the region in 2011.
Andy Ware, deputy director of Ohio's natural resources department, told CNN on Sunday that Zehringer and Gov. John Kasich subsequently ordered that four nearby injection well projects will not open in the coming weeks, as had previously been planned. They 'll be inoperational until a determination is made in an investigation of a possible link between the earthquakes and the fluid-injection wells, he added.
Last Friday's order affecting the first well in Youngstown came six days after a magnitude 2.5 earthquake that struck that area around 1:24 a.m. on December 24. After Saturday's larger earthquake, scientists recommended that operations stop at all wells within a 5-mile radius of that original site.
"We need to get more information," Ware said.
Ohio is far from the edges of Earth's major tectonic plates, with the nearest ones in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the U.S. Geological Survey explains on its website. Still, there are many known faults in this region, with the federal agency noting that it is likely there are additional "smaller or deeply buried" ones that haven't been detected.
While earthquakes are not unprecedented in the area, the rate of them in the past year has been unusual. That fact led Zehringer, the Ohio department head, to act late last week.
"While conclusive evidence cannot link the seismic activity to the well, Zehringer has adopted an approach requiring prudence and caution regarding the site," the natural resources department said Friday in a press release, explaining its decision to shut the first well.
Dr. Won-Young Kim, one of the Columbia University experts asked by the state to examine possible connections between fracking and seismic activity, said that a problem could arise if fluid moves through the ground and affects "a weak fault, waiting to be triggered." He explained the underground waste "slowly migrates" and could cause issues miles away, adding that the danger could persist for some time as the fluid travels and seeps down toward the fault.
"In my opinion, yes," the recent spate of earthquakes around Youngstown is related to a fluid-injection well, Kim stated -- though there has been no definitive determination, by the state or other authorities, indicating as much.
Firedoglake notes that a recent earthquake in Oklahoma may be linked to fracking as well.
So how's that secretive commission you put together to study fracking in New York State going, Governor Cuomo?
We know YOU'RE in favor of fracking, Governor.
Like everything you do - from prison closures to tax policy to this education commission you're putting together to blame teachers for the problems in public education - you like to make it look like one thing in public while it's a whole other thing in private.
We KNOW this is a done deal, that the fix is in, the oil and gas companies have bought and paid for you.
You just want this supposed commission of experts to give you political cover to open up most of the state to fracking.
But before you give your gas company buddies their fracking wet dreams, take a look at the mounting evidence that FRACKING ISN'T SAFE.
Or turn off the Sandra Lee Show and watch this video instead: