A Cincinnati-area legislator is calling for an Ohio House committee to hold a public hearing about the alleged link between fracking and ground tremors.
State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Price Hill) wrote a letter today asking that a public hearing be held during the next meeting of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The meeting isn’t currently scheduled but likely will occur sometime later this month or in early February.
“As you are aware, the most recent in a series of Mahoning Valley earthquakes occurred a few days ago on New Year’s Eve as a result of injection well activity in that area,” Driehaus wrote to State Rep. David Hall (R-Millersburg), committee chairman. “This brings the total to 11 earthquakes in less than a year. For a state like Ohio, where earthquakes are an anomaly, I’m sure you can agree this is a situation that needs to be dealt with promptly so that our citizens are protected from additional man-made quakes.”
Currently there are two bills pending in the Ohio House regarding the drilling practice of fracking, also known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing.
The first bill, H.B. No. 345, was introduced in October by Driehaus and State Rep. Tracy Heard (D-Columbus). It would impose a moratorium on fracking until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigates the proper regulations needed to ensure the practice doesn’t pose a threat to Ohioans.
The second bill, H.B. No. 351, introduced by State Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), would implement procedures and rules to make the fracking process more transparent.
Fracking is the nickname given to high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, a drilling process that makes it possible to reach natural gas reserves that lie deep underground throughout much of Ohio. It uses the high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals to release the trapped gas. The injected materials create tiny cracks that free the gas and make it more accessible.
Initially, most of the opposition to fracking was based on concerns it could contaminate nearby aquifers, which are the source of drinking water. Now the concern has expanded.
After a series of small earthquakes occurred last year near a fracking site in Youngstown, scientists at Columbia University's Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory placed mobile seismographs in the area to determine if there was a link.
Based on the readings from two earthquakes — one on Christmas Eve, the other on New Year’s Eve — scientists concluded that a disposal process connected to fracking was the likely cause. Specifically, they think the pumping of wastewater from the operations back into the ground is the problem.
Eleven quakes have occurred near the Youngstown site since March. Similar links between fracking and quakes have been found in Arkansas, Colorado and Texas.
Driehaus’ letter added, “These bills will allow Ohio to take the time to make appropriate and responsible decisions in order to protect our citizens and the water they drink while also increasing the transparency of fracking procedures and operations. Many other states have not taken the necessary time to consider all the factors regarding this process and the disposal of fracking by-products and have thus faced many difficulties protecting their land, water, and citizens.”