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EPA withholding release of report on earthquakes linked to disposal wells

The Environmental Protection Agency is holding back the release of a report on earthquakes related to drilling and related operations, EnergyWire reports. 

A team of EPA officials has been looking into concerns that deep injection wells – where wastewater from oil and gas drilling is disposed underground – have caused a spate of earthquakes in Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Colorado.

EnergyWire reports the team sent a final draft to EPA headquarters in January, but has not officially released it to the public five months later.

More from EnergyWire:

[The] report did not recommend that all disposal wells be tested for seismic dangers. Because of that, one member of the working group that drafted the report voted against it.

“The authors and I are not comfortable in having the work product recommend seismic monitoring for every Class IID well across the country, as there are just too many variables that exist,” wrote the chairman of the group, Kurt Hildebrandt, with EPA’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program in EPA Kansas City-based Region 7.

The version sent to Washington — deemed “final” in a transmittal memo — was included in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Inside EPA in March.

The workgroup effort began quietly in June 2011. At the time, EPA officials said “the UIC program can and should implement requirements to protect against significant seismic events.”

But agency leaders have also stressed that group was not seeking to make new policies or regulations. Instead, it was to develop recommendations for state officials for dealing with injection wells linked to earthquakes. The study was to have been completed by December 2011 but wasn’t.

In Pennsylvania, there are seven active deep injection wells, and most drilling wastewater is either recycled or trucked to Ohio for disposal.

Since January, the EPA has issued permits for three more injection wells in Clearfield, Elk and Indiana Counties, which are all being challenged by local communities. A fourth permit for an injection well in Venango County has received final approval, but is not yet active.

The EPA is reconsidering the permit issued in February for a well in Clearfield County. The agency admitted it made factual errors in its response to public comments, which included concerns about the well’s proximity to water supplies and the potential for seismic activity.


  • crystalpoint

    If a asteroid hit the earth tomorrow, it would be George Bushes’ fault, or the gas and oil industries fracking activities! The point being, I don’t believe that it is, or can be proven by EPA or anyone that deep well waste water injection, is causing earthquake tremors in the earth! Further “if” they were, they will not hurt a thing!
    As a boy, growing up in Lycoming County. I clearly remember slight earth quake tremors here all the time! We simply ignored those, and got on with our life. Such happens all around the Globe, some places more than others! More recently, I once had a Crystal Mine here in Lycoming County, before the Commonwealth DEP shut me down over some alleged complaint. When ever I went underground in the mine, I noticed “Tremors” all the time! This was long before the Marcellus Shale development began here in Lycoming County! I am a “believer”, and I know there is a fire burring deep down in the earth, and sooner or later the massive gas build up which move’s the rocks must be released! Either by a tremor, or could erupt into a massive earthquake!
    I am also convinced, if seismic sensors were placed anywhere in active spots, in Pa., they would confirm that tremors do occur, where there are not any water injection sites located! So what is all the concern about?
    Ray P. Smith, Sr.

    • pjgills

      Did you see the news from Oklahoma on Friday? Town hall meeting packed with people who have been experiencing far more seismic activity than they’ve every experienced ever before. It’s not a clear-cut connection but it should be studied. I guess the concern is destruction of homes and offices. I don’t think it should be dismissed as “we’ve always had earthquakes” if there’s been a noticeable increase. But I also don’t think we can rush to the conclusion that it is related. Anecdotal evidence from your childhood is not considered the same as science-based research. There’s understandable passion from all sides on this issue, and that’s even more reason to rely on science rather than our feelings in determining our way forward./Pam

  • Brent Ritzel

    50 yrs of geological science links #fracking wastewater injection wells w/ induced #earthquakes www. #Illinois

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