A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) geophysicist debunked claims by environmentalists that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, causes damaging earthquakes.
“Yes, humans really are causing earthquakes, but not in the way you think,” Dr. Justin L. Rubinstein, a research geophysicist and deputy chief of the USGS Induced Seismicity Project, said during a presentation at a Kansas science museum Saturday. It directly debunked claims by environmentalists and explained that fracking only causes extremely minor earthquakes, which can’t even be felt.
The region’s earthquakes aren’t due to fracking, but are caused by injecting wastewater underground, according to Rubinstein. Contrary to popular belief, most of what is injected into wastewater wells isn’t the chemicals used in fracking. Less than 1 percent of wastewaster disposal wells are linked to earthquakes and the fracking industry has already started moving away from underground wastewater injection.
Rubinstein also said the relationship between scientists and the fracking industry hasn’t been very confrontational: “It’s not in their [oil and gas producers’] interests to have these earthquakes.” The presentation explained that Kansas and neighboring states have worked with the industry to make minor rule changes to reduce earthquakes and noted that “things are looking positive.”
“Induced earthquakes aren’t something new,” Rubinstein pointed out, before explaining that humans have produced quakes since at least 1894 by mining for gold and creating water reservoirs.
Other scientists have confirmed that fracking doesn’t cause damaging earthquakes.
The “controversial method of hydraulic fracturing or fracking, even though that may be used in the drilling, is not physically causing the shakes,” USGS researcher William Ellsworth told The Associated Press last year.
Dr. Matthew Hornback, a professor of geophysics at Southern Methodist University, told lawmakers in May, “[W]e’re not talking at all about fracking. In fact, it’s been driving us crazy, frankly, that people keep using it in the press,” when asked if fracking causes significant earthquakes.
“Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as ‘fracking’, does not appear to be linked to the increased rate of magnitude 3 and larger earthquakes,” states the USGS website. The use of the term “large” is also misleading.
Earthquakes are measured on a logarithmic scale, and the difference between whole numbers on the scale is huge. A 9.0 quake can devastate a country, while a 3.0 quake generally cannot be felt. An earthquake that measures 3.0 on the Richter scale releases 31 times the energy of a 2.0 quake and has a shaking amplitude 10 times smaller than that of a 3.0 quake.
Despite the scientific consensus, even mainstream environmental groups strongly oppose fracking. The Sierra Club claims fracking can “contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, and cause earthquakes.”
Fracking-earthquake myths told by environmentalists and media outlets are so widespread that the USGS actually maintains a “Myths and Misconceptions” section of its website to debunk them.
Despite scientific consensus, environmental groups tried to blame fracking for just about everything including: droughts, drinking water contamination, flaming tap-water, poverty, income inequality, and even low sperm counts. All these claims have been debunked.
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