On October 15, seismologist Paul A. Friberg published an article in the journal Seismological Research Letters that links earthquakes to hydraulic fracturing. The report was published less than a month before today’s vote, in which several communities will make decisions affecting the burgeoning domestic energy business.
The article links hydraulic fracturing, not only to the more common imperceptible low-magnitude earthquakes, but also to larger, positive-magnitude earthquakes. Friberg lists Oklahoma and Ohio as locations where such earthquakes have been observed. In particular, the report shows that hydraulic fracturing in Harrison County, Ohio is linked to positive-magnitude earthquakes on a previously unmapped fault. Texas, Ohio, and California have all adopted regulations designed to prevent earthquake-related drilling accidents, but the study will still likely trouble voters.
Today, community members in those three states will decide whether to ban hydraulic fracturing. Ohio counties – Athens, Gates Mills, Kent, and Youngstown have bans on the ballot. In addition, Santa Barbara, Mendocino and San Benito counties in California, and Denton County in Texas are weighing similar measures. Today’s vote will also likely impact Illinois fledgling unconventional drilling industry, as Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s reelection may impact the eagerly awaited fracing permits that hinge on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ pending regulations.