I posted an article Is recent earthquake a game changer? to The Business Advocate on April 1st of this year. Ten days later, on April 11th, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources provided an answer. They announced that the recent earthquakes in Poland Township in Mahoning County on March 10th were likely caused by hydraulic fracking operations. This marks the first time that fracking operations have been linked to earthquakes in either the Marcellus or Utica shale plays.
The State ordered an immediate and indefinite moratorium on fracking natural gas wells within three miles of the epicenter of the Poland Township earthquake. As a direct result of this finding, Ohio is also changing its oil and gas well permits. Going forward, a permit for drilling within three miles of a known underground geologic fault or area of seismic activity having a magnitude of greater than 2.0 will require the installation of seismic monitors. Should those monitoring devices measure seismic activity of greater than 1.0 magnitude, drilling at the permitted wells would immediately have to halt while the seismic activity is investigated. If investigation determines that hydraulic fracturing caused the activity, then well completion operations must be suspended.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced that it will review over 400 permits that have been issued where drilling thereunder has not yet commenced. The State will investigate whether any of these permits are for sites within three miles of known fault lines or areas of previous seismic activity greater than 2.0. Sites falling within these distance parameters will have to install seismic monitoring equipment before they can be fracked. The State of Ohio actually created a formal seismic network in 1999, and since that time over 109 earthquakes have been identified having a magnitude of greater than 2.0. It is from the seismic activity parameters of those earthquake events that the new permitting conditions will be determined. The March 10th earthquakes in Poland Township turned out to be game changers, and the resulting changes were quick and decisive.