New Castle News

April 24, 2014

Geologist: Ohio’s response to earthquakes ‘inadequate’

Mary Grzebieniak
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A Youngstown State University geologist called Ohio’s official response to the 12 earthquakes that occurred last month in Poland Township, Ohio “inadequate.”

Dr. Ray Beiersdorfer, who has taught for 21 years at YSU, said in a press conference Wednesday in downtown Youngstown, that the Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s response fails to protect the public.

He questioned whether Utica Shale formation in this area is located too close to the “basement rock” and its faults to safely frack it.

He added that companies should be required to prove there are no faults, “not to just install monitors after they trigger an earthquake or two.”

Beiersdorfer said newly imposed permit conditions will not prevent earthquakes, just define new policies to pause activities and possibly suspend well completion once an earthquake occurs.

The earthquakes occurred close to the Pennsylvania state line, near a Hilcorp Energy Co. well pad on the Carbon Limestone property. That property lies adjacent to the state line and Mahoning Township.

Beiersdorfer said that while rock units slope slightly toward Pennsylvania and the rock is a little deeper, the geology here “is not dramatically different” than in Poland Township.

He also questioned ODNR Director James Zehringer’s statement that shows that the earthquakes are probably connected to hydraulic fracturing near a “previously unknown microfault.”

Beiersdorfer said “microfault” is not a common geological term and is not included in the third edition “Glossary of Geology” that contains more than 34,700 terms.

He said that repeatedly using the word “microfault” without proving the fault is microscopic in size seems like “propaganda to instill a false sense of security from fracking-induced earthquakes.”

He also questioned new permit conditions, asking why a three-mile distance from a known fault was chosen as the cutoff for drilling, and why the magnitude 2.0 was chosen as the minimum for monitoring.

He said the United Kingdom has standards that require monitoring following earthquakes of magnitude 0.5.

He also asked whether a drilling company should be required to prove there are no nearby faults prior to drilling by providing ODNR with all available seismic reflection data it collects.

He said it is his understanding that Hilcorp collected 3-D seismic reflection data prior to drilling and asked whether this data was used in locating the “microfault,” and whether any other faults can be interpreted from that data.

He also asked whether any data is available from the EarthScope seismic network from its time in Ohio which might identify previously unknown faults at the Poland site.

Beiersdorfer also questioned how the ODNR knows that allowing production to continue on five other wells at the Poland Township site will reduce pressure and the likelihood of further earthquakes. He pointed out that a National Research Council 2012 report lists 20 cases of pressure reduction from oil and gas production causing earthquakes in California, Illinois, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

He commented that when fracking-related earthquakes occurred in Canada, England and Oklahoma, government agencies issued reports documenting the occurrences, but that the ODNR “has provided a press release.”

He contends the public needs a detailed report. Beiersdorfer said he has filed a public information request for data from the ODNR investigation, but so far he has received nothing.

Dr. Beiersdorfer’s wife, Susie, who formerly taught geology part-time at YSU, is co-founder of Frackfree Mahoning Valley, an organization that opposes fracking.