EPA Massively Hedges Its Claim That Fracking Causes Earthquakes

(Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could potentially cause very small earthquakes in extremely unusual situations, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials told Texas oil regulators Monday.

“In light of findings from several researchers, its own analysis of some cases and the fact that earthquakes diminished in some areas following shut-in or reduced injection volume of targeted wells, EPA believes there is a significant possibility that North Texas earthquake activity is associated with disposal wells,”  the EPA told regulators, according to The Texas Tribune.

EPA’s extremely hedged statement to the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and natural gas drilling in the state, was promptly interpreted by environmental groups as proof that fracking can cause devastating quakes. A local green group even told The Tribune the agency was “stating the obvious.” Major environmental groups like The Sierra Club claim fracking can “contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, and cause earthquakes.”

EPA “commended” the Commission for establishing earthquake-related regulations for drilling operations there, even though officials haven’t found a link between fracking and seismic activity in the state.

“Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as ‘fracking’, does not appear to be linked to the increased rate of magnitude 3 and larger earthquakes,” states the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) website. 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.

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 larger than that of a 2.0 quake.

Scientists, regulators and governmental agencies have repeatedly said that fracking doesn’t cause damaging quakes. 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.

Despite scientific consensus, environmental groups tried to blame fracking for just about everything including: droughtsdrinking water contaminationflaming tap-waterpovertyincome inequality, and even low sperm counts. All these claims have been debunked.

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