Despite evidence that waste injection wells can lead to man-made earthquakes, some states, including California, Texas and New York, are ignoring the dangers of seismic activity as they re-write their drilling rules to deal with hydraulic fracturing, reports Mike Soraghan of Environment and Energy News.
"Geologists have known for decades that deep injection of industrial waste can lubricate faults and unleash earthquakes," Soraghan notes. "Some earthquake researchers now say the nation's drilling boom, fueled by advances in high-volume hydraulic fracturing, could be spurring a rash of such man-made quakes." The map, from a study by the University of Texas, shows the proximity of injection wells to earthquakes near the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in 2009. (National Research Council map)
Wastewater laced with toxic and radioactive chemicals is being disposed of in injection wells, and earthquakes have been linked to injection wells in Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas, Soraghan writes.
"The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas production, is doing a large-scale revision of its rules without looking at man-made earthquakes," notes Soraghan. "California officials say they don't see the need to look at injection wells and earthquakes, saying existing rules are sufficient. In drafting regulations that would open upstate New York to drilling and hydraulic fracturing, officials at the Department of Environmental Conservation dismissed the possibility of earthquakes, saying there is 'essentially no increased risk to the public.'" (Read more)