Iowa Public Television

 

Company Cautions Against Linking Well, Ohio Quakes

posted on January 13, 2012


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - Boos, applause and the occasional
outburst marked a gathering of about 500 Ohio residents seeking
explanations for a series of earthquakes that has hit their area
since deep injection drilling came to town.
     At a news conference after the forum Wednesday, the company said
voluntarily shut down an oil and gas wastewater well in Youngstown
to study any links to the quakes urged caution in accepting a
seismologist's finding that their injection well almost certainly
caused the quakes.
     "It is in the best interest of the community to allow the
research process to play out," said Vince Bevacqua, a spokesman
for D&L Energy. "The well that people are concerned about -
rightly or wrongly - is offline and will stay offline until we have
answers."
     Bevacqua said that the seismologist made his judgment from "an
office in New York" and that no one has definitively proven the
quakes are related to activity at the well. The company has
commissioned a study and is depressurizing the well following the
shutdown.
     In a state investigation into 11 earthquakes in the region this
year, Columbia University seismologist John Armbruster said that
the injection of thousands of gallons of brine wastewater daily
into the injection well almost certainly caused the quakes. State
officials said they believed the well activity caused pressure to
build near a fault line and led to the seismic activity.
     Armbruster's finding intensified the debate over hydraulic
fracturing, or fracking, used to extract natural gas from
underground shale. The Youngstown well took wastewater from all
sorts of drilling in the oil and gas industry. It is an injection
well, not a well for extracting oil and gas.
     Bevacqua said the company hopes its own study will provide
different feedback. The study has not been started yet and Bevacqua
was not able to provide a timetable.
     Many residents who attended the Wednesday forum experienced the
4.0 magnitude New Year's Eve quake, which led to Gov. John Kasich
calling a moratorium on injection drilling in the region. Several
said fear and concern brought them out.
     "Your saltwater is radioactive poison!" shouted one
participant.
     Retiree Bob Gray, a lifelong resident of Youngstown, said
regulators who attended the event didn't provide satisfactory
answers.
     "I feel like my intelligence has been insulted," said Gray,
70. He described the forum as "a dog and pony show."
     Gray and others questioned why wastewater from fracking is being
shipped into Ohio for disposal when nearby Pennsylvania and New
York don't want it. Pennsylvania drillers are recycling much of the
water they use, but Ohio has a contract to accept a portion of the
Pennsylvania wastewater.
     Bill Kinney, a petroleum executive representing the Ohio Oil &
Gas Association at the forum, said the shipments aren't unusual.
     "There are all types of interstate commerce, that happens to be
one of them," he said. "Pennsylvania is not Afghanistan. It's the
state next to us."
     Joseph Planey, 65, a Boardman resident who works as a
consultant, said the public meeting was a good start.
     "More detail needs to be gotten into," he said. "I think the
depth of the problem can't be addressed in a two-hour meeting."
     D&L voluntarily shut the well down Dec. 30 after the 10th
earthquake Christmas Eve. After a New Year's quake of magnitude
4.0, Gov. John Kasich ordered a moratorium on all wastewater
injection wells within a roughly five-mile radius of the Youngstown
well. The moratorium applied to four additional wells, although
they were already inactive.
     Kasich, a first-term Republican, has tried to distance the
injection well process from natural gas drilling and fracking. His
administration has emphasized that 176 other injection wells have
been operating in Ohio since the mid-1980s without any notable
seismic activity.
     Armbruster, of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth
Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., has said injection wells have also
been suspected in quakes in Astabula in far northeast Ohio, and in
Arkansas, Colorado and Oklahoma.
     At the forum Wednesday, Dan Mincks, 35, an autoworker from
Boardman, stood patiently through state presentations with his
8-month-old daughter, Lily, in his arms. On New Year's Eve, his
wife Julie was changing Lily's diaper when she felt the earthquake
rock the ground.
     "I actually thought a car hit the house, or she fell," Mincks
said, pointing to his wife.
     Mincks said he sees the shale drilling boon that's come to Ohio
as a good thing for the ailing economy. He and his wife have been
helping the Sierra Club collect periodic seismic readings near
their home.
     Julie Mincks, who grew up in the area, said construction of a
drilling access road is just being completed on her mother's
Columbiana County farm.
     "I think it's good for the area as long as it's closely
monitored," she said.
     D&L Energy, whose affiliate Northstar Disposal Services LLC
operates the Youngstown well, plans to share its geologic study
with state regulators in hopes of getting the well reopened.
Bevacqua said regulators, researchers and journalists "will
scrutinize these results to an unusually high level to ensure their
credibility, and D&L accepts that."
     Rep. Robert Hagan, a local Democrat, helped organize the
Wednesday meeting. Ohio Department of Natural Resources experts
were joined by an academic, environmentalist, and a representative
of the oil and gas drilling industry.


Tags: earthquakes energy Ohio oil drilling