Energy. Environment. Economy.

State Geologists Say U.S.G.S Link Between Earthquakes and Fracking Unproven

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Youngstown, Ohio's Northstar 1 well has been tied to 12 earthquakes.

Last week we reported on a new U.S.G.S study to be published soon, which links fracking waste water disposal wells to a rash of earthquakes in the Mid-West. But Mike Soraghan from EnergyWire, spoke to geologists from two prominent fracking states, Oklahoma and Colorado, who take issue with the report.

The top geologists in Oklahoma and Colorado say scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey were too quick to conclude that disposal of oil and gas waste is linked to a rise in the number of earthquakes in the middle of the country.

“It’s unfortunate that they’ve jumped to this conclusion,” said Colorado state geologist Vince Matthews. “There really needs to be a good scientific understanding.”

Colorado and Oklahoma both had significant earthquakes last year. They also figure prominently in the findings of Bill Ellsworth and fellow USGS scientists that a rash of midcontinent earthquakes in the past 11 years or so is man-made and that the earthquakes appear to be linked to such oil and gas activity.

The U.S.G.S report did not link fracking itself to earthquakes, rather the use of deep injection wells to dispose of the waste water. The wells are used to shoot the frack water at high pressure deep into the earth. It’s mostly brine, but can also contain toxic chemicals.

In the EnergyWire report, the state geologists did not deny that earthquakes could be caused by deep injection wells, only that the data is not full proof.

But Keller said his office got so many inquiries after the USGS study hit the news last month that he put out a “position statement” on man-made earthquakes.

“It is unlikely that all of the earthquakes can be attributed to human activities,” the position statement says. “We consider a rush to judgment about earthquakes being triggered to be harmful to state, public and industry interests.”

Keller also noted that activists who oppose drilling and hydraulic fracturing had seized on such findings.

For more on the connection between Pennsylvania’s frack water, and Ohio’s man made earthquakes, check out Scott Detrow’s piece on Ohio’s deep injection wells.


  • julesdownunder

    I note the Energywire State Geologists position statement is worded “It is unlikely that ALL of the earth­quakes can be attrib­uted to human activ­i­ties.” What a lame position. Its only the earthquakes that can be attributed to human activities that concern us as they would be preventable. Just a whiff of the mentality of these two geologists irks me. Like naughty boys trying to defend something by pointing the finger elsewhere. Not much respect for mother earth in these lads.

  • Plebian

    Way to be weak kneed about fracking NPR, I like the pieces where industry spokesman say blatantly false information on the topic and NPR doesn’t question it, and then on the break they say the program is brought by America’s Natural Gas Alliance.

    I know they threaten to cut your funding when you call the oil and gas cartels out on their lies, but you’ve just destroyed your credibility NPR, and are now an industry tool.  You’re allowing lies to go said unchallenged on your programs and that is the same as lying yourselves.  You are insulting our intelligence and on the wrong side of history.  Nevermind you fear, and joins us in the light NPR, before it’s too late.

  • Capt Joemama
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