The Ohio Natural Resources Department said it’s changing permit conditions for drilling near faults in response to recent earthquakes near Youngstown that show a “probable connection” to hydraulic fracturing.
New state permits for horizontal drilling, or fracking, within three miles (4.8 kilometers) of a known fault or area of seismic activity greater than a 2.0 magnitude on the Richter scale will require companies to install sensitive seismic monitors, the agency said.
If the monitors detect an earthquake in excess of 1.0 magnitude, drilling would halt while the cause is investigated and well-completion operations suspended if a link to fracking is established, the state said.
“While we can never be 100 percent sure that drilling activities are connected to a seismic event, caution dictates that we take these new steps to protect human health, safety and the environment,” agency Director James Zehringer said today in a statement.
There were five temblors of 2.0 or greater in Poland Township outside Youngstown on March 10 and March 11, according to the agency. State geologists suspect that sand and water injected into a well during the fracking process may have increased pressure on a previously unknown microfault in the area, the agency said.
In fracking for oil and natural gas, drillers inject a mixture of water and chemicals at high pressure into rock formations. Reports of earthquakes linked to wells that they use to dispose of wastewater have become more frequent from Texas to Ohio.