Quake Risk From Fracking Seen Cut With Disclosures, U.S. Says

U.S. energy companies should report information on waste water from hydraulic fracturing to help officials reduce the risk of earthquakes, the head of the U.S. Geological Survey said.

“We do need help from industry,” Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, said today in an interview in Washington. “There is not good public information on the amount of water being pumped, and the rate at which it’s pumped.”

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources proposed this month creating rules for transporting and disposing of the fluids after concluding quakes last year were probably caused by water from oil and natural-gas drilling, know as fracking, being injected into a disposal well.

Companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Chesapeake Energy Corp. pump millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to break up shale-rock formations and release the trapped gas.

Some drillers voluntarily disclose information on waste-water wells, while others are required to report by state rules, said Kathleen Gohn, deputy congressional liaison officer at the survey, a unit of the Interior Department. The agency has no power to impose additional requirements, she said.

Less than 1 percent of wells drilled to dispose of the water after fracking causes “induced seismicity,” McNutt said today in testimony to a House Natural Resources Committee panel in Washington.

“I’m wondering what would be an acceptable percentage of induced earthquakes, I think 1 percent is probably pretty large,” Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, said during the hearing.

Getting more information would help reduce the quake risk in a year or two, McNutt said.

“It’s a very solvable problem,” McNutt said. “You either have to put the holes in a different place, or pump it at a different rate.”

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