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Pennsylvania To Study Link Between Fracking, Earthquakes

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is considering examining the link between horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and seismic activity after Ohio recently tied a series of small earthquakes to stimulation operations at a well near the state border and issued new permitting requirements for wells near fault lines.

As the DEP continues work on drafting oil and gas regulations and considers others (see Shale DailyMay 13), it recently outlined a proposal to better regulate the possibility of induced seismicity. The agency said in April, after the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) issued a set of permitting conditions for drilling within three miles of a known fault or area of seismic activity (see Shale DailyApril 11), that it was monitoring the situation and mulling its options. 

Although it's only a proposal, the plan calls for compiling state, federal and industry seismic records for comparison with completion reports to better understand the relationship between horizontal drilling and geologic activity, DEP officials said. That information would help regulators understand how to move forward with any future regulations.

Ohio's decision came after a series of March earthquakes near Youngstown, where state geologists believed that fracking at a Hilcorp Energy Co. site induced the activity in an area where little had ever been reported before (see Shale DailyMarch 11). Prior to that event, ODNR released a report in 2012 that linked an injection well in Youngstown to a magnitude-4.0 earthquake on New Year's Eve 2011 (seeShale DailyJan. 4, 2012).

No earthquakes have been linked to the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania, but the state joins Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Kansas that are investigating possibly linked seismic events (see Shale Daily, June 26May 14; March 20April 8). Some states have considered more stringent regulations (see Shale DailyJuly 7April 11, 2013Jan. 18 2013June 18, 2012; Oct. 11, 2011).

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