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Answers sought to reason for Monday quakes

Published: Tue, March 11, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.


Hilcorp Energy Co.’s fracking well on Moore Road in Poland Township.

By Tom McParland



A state agency and local leaders again find themselves looking for answers as to why seismic tremors shook up part of the Valley for the first time in two years.

Police in Boardman and Poland said they fielded calls Monday from people who felt the early-morning tremors, but no injuries or property damage were reported.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Hilcorp Energy Co. say it’s too soon to determine the cause of four earthquakes in Poland Township.

Citing an abundance of caution, however, ODNR ordered Hilcorp to halt all activity at two well pads at the Carbon Limestone Landfill “until further assessment can take place.”

Hilcorp said it complied, shutting down seven wells at the site including one that was actively producing oil and gas.

“It is far too early in the process to know exactly what happened, and we are not aware of any evidence to connect our operations to these events,” the company said in a statement. “We would also like to remind the community that a number of Utica wells have been drilled in Ohio in recent years without incident.”

The U.S. Geological Survey placed the epicenter of the first earthquake at 2:26 a.m. almost directly below Hilcorp’s well pads. Though the quake initially registered a magnitude of 2.8, USGS later upgraded it to a magnitude 3.0.

A second, magnitude 2.4 earthquake registered to the west 16 minutes later, in between Struthers and Monroe Roads, according to USGS data. Two more earthquakes — magnitudes of 2.2 and 2.6 ã— followed to the east of the original epicenter during the 11 a.m. hour.

ODNR said it was “in the process of analyzing the data,” and a spokesman added it would be “premature” to speculate as to whether the tremors were in any way connected to drilling operations in Poland, where Hilcorp Energy Co. has permits to drill 12 wells.

ODNR ruled out the possibility that Monday’s earthquakes were connected to Class II injection wells, and Hilcorp stressed that it had no disposal wells operating in the area, used to discard the salty chemical byproduct brine.

A March 2012 ODNR report confirmed long-held suspicions that D&L Energy’s Northstar 1 deep injection well, operating in Youngstown, was linked to 13 earthquakes in a year. A study published in August 2013 by Columbia University researchers, however, linked that well to as many as 109 tremors between January 2011 and February 2012.

But no such injection wells were in play on Monday in that area, spurring some to wonder whether the fracking process itself could be enough to trigger seismic reactions.

Fracking extracts natural gas from shale under pressure.

Ray Beiersdorfer, a professor of geology at Youngstown State University, said the proximity of the earthquake epicenters raises some concerns.

“There are no injection wells in that area, but the ODNR well locator shows that there are numerous horizontal shale-gas fracking wells nearby. A working hypothesis that the earthquake is related to the fracking, if proven correct, would not be the first documented case of fracking causing earthquakes,” he said.

Beiersdorfer cited a study by the BC Oil and Gas Commission, an agency responsible for regulating oil and gas activities in British Columbia, that linked fracking to abnormal seismic activity in parts of the Horn River Basin. The report found that the low-level tremors recorded between 2009 and 2011 were the result of fluid injection during fracking near faults.

Similar concerns have popped up recently in England and the United States.

Oil and gas representatives have said that fracking has its risks, like any industry, but that the industry is committed to managing those risks in an environmentally responsible way.

The Ohio Oil and Gas Association, which represents drillers across the state, said it “fully supports” ODNR’s decision to suspend oil and gas activity in the Carbon Limestone area.

“It was the right thing to do to ensure the safety and peace of mind for area residents. ODNR has the scientific resources and expertise to properly investigate this situation,” Thomas E. Stewart, OOGA executive vice president, said in a statement.

Poland Village Mayor Tim Sicafuse said the incidents are “definitely concerning,” and that a priority is “to find out, if we can, why they’re happening.”

He said he agrees with ODNR’s precautionary order to halt operations in the township, and that it’s “better to be safe than sorry.”

“Something’s going on,” Sicafuse said. “I don’t know if it’s geological or if it’s fracking, but it’s strange.”

Meanwhile, state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, stopped short of drawing a connection between the earthquakes and local drilling.

Hagan did take aim at ODNR’s public response to the tremors.

“It’s obvious they continually hide from what causes these earthquakes,” he said. “I’m not saying they’re connected. But [ODNR] continuously [hides] from us, and that makes people suspicious.”

Hagan said he supports fracking, but wants it done in a safe manner.

“I want answers,” he said.


1rickking123(331 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

The last sentence shows the ego of Choo Choo Train Bob. Next he'll be saying my unqualified wife wants answers.

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2isaac45(414 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

never seen one positive comment about Hagan on these boards and yet he was always re-elected...shows once again how far removed the vast majority of Vindy posters are from the mainstream body politic of the area...and I would add, the nation...all those Romney will win Ohio, and the country, in a landslide folks...just good to remember when you read the usual right-wing mumbo jumbo here

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3rickking123(331 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Research how many bills Choo Choo Train Bob has sponsored and then had enacted into law and then ask yourself why this area repeatedly re elects this man. That's the question Isaac45 should be asking.

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4NoBS(2832 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

The article says "Though the quake initially registered a magnitude of 2.8, USGS later upgraded it to a magnitude 3.0." I'd like to know how that happens. What criteria did the USGS use to "upgrade" the magnitude? If the seismic instruments measured 2.8, it's 2.8. Was politics at work, trying to make the event out to be worse than it actually was?

And while we're at it, was there not a 6.9 magnitude earthquake just off the coast of California at roughly the same time as our 2.8? Instead of trying to bolster political agendas, has anyone thought ours could have been related to the one in California?

Think, people! Ask questions, and learn!!!

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5sclln83(1 comment)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Instead of complaining about Democrats & Republicans, let's just focus on the problem at hand. Just my opinion

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6DwightK(1537 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Remember how fracking was going to knock down unemployment levels? If this were true it would be worth a little shaking but I don't see it.

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7Attis(1134 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Is causing earthquakes recognized as a crime? Is this gross corporate violation of public health and safety even addressed in our criminal code? So the mother (earth) frackers and injectors get away with earthquakes (along with massive pollution), with the abject complicity of state "regulators". What's wrong with this picture?

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8lbf(220 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

professor Ray Biersdorfer on now

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9glbtactivist(321 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Obviously the fracking is causing the earthquakes. Now the question is what damage are the earthquakes doing and is the State prepared to protect the citizens or just the fracking industry? The earthquake is a shifting in the ground. That means the water table layer is now subject to contamination. Is anyone checking on this? Ten years from now will there be no safe water? Will we find out after people become sick from drinking the water? Will the oil industry pack up and leave a mess like the steel industry did? Too bad the Republicans in Columbus will not protect us or even tell us the truth.

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10redvert(2240 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Has anyone thought about the fact that we know that there are numerous fractures in the plates deep in the earth, some large and many more that are small? Perhaps the fracking and the injection is causing these pressure points to settle? Remember, these quakes are very minor so it would seem to be more of a settling action than anything else.

That being said, it does not serve the purpose of the whiners!

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11redvert(2240 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

DwightK, have you heard about this local company called VLM? I understand that they are building seamless pipe somewhere around here and may even expand their operation. Ok, they have not solved the unemployment issue for all the locals that want to work but it is a step in the right direction.

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12DwightK(1537 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

"we are not aware of any evidence to connect our operations to these events,” the company said in a statement."

"The U.S. Geological Survey placed the epicenter of the first earthquake at 2:26 a.m. almost directly below Hilcorp’s well pads."


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13walter_sobchak(2726 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

You raise a question similar to one that I have . Where is the energy released for these small quakes coming from? A possible explanation would be a fault line but the USGS data indicates that the elevation of the seismic activity is about 6400 ft down. This would be at the level of the Utica shale. From my understanding of this formation, the shale striations are in a vertical fashion here. I guess a vertical slip plane could have let loose but to where does it move? Now, the area is littered with very old coal mine shafts that are subject to collapse but I don't believe any are that deep. But, since that exact area was the location of limestone mining where blasting occurred for many decades, you would have to deduct that any type of shifting of old mines would have occurred long ago. This is what happens with the salt mines under Lake Erie when an underground dome collapses. It appears that some mechanism has been created from the horizontal drilling and fracturing of shale. This is a question that needs to be answered as it appears to be limited to this site. Looking at a drilling map, there is ten times the amount of drilling southwest of Poland and I'm not aware of any reported seismic activity.

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14eevo(51 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

1. V&M workers had to be recruited from out of the state because this valley's workers are too lazy and won't work.
2. Kasich will ensure that all damage caused by the earthquakes caused by drilling will be paid for, because he is a great governor.

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15UsuallyBlunt(105 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

The answers, both from the posters on this site and from the so-called "experts" are purely speculative! Why doesn't someone crawl down into a hole and watch as the plates slip?

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16JoeFromHubbard(1813 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

@ UsuallyBlunt:

That's a great idea, visual inspection of the suspect area to assess all of the activity.

First down the hole might be Mr. Hagan followed by the fracophobics to generate an "unbiased" report.

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17ondaedg(19 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Folks, a word of warning. Certain industries will pay individuals to post on these forums to try to manipulate discourse that is favorable to their industry. It's been happening for over a decade and may very well be happening here. This leads me to my second thought: Anyone who believes that a well located directly above the epicenter had nothing to do with it, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you...

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18Aware(255 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

I am unaware of any company named VLM. Can the person who mentioned this firm tell us more about it? And (another unrelated comment)-it's hard to follow posts beginning with 'I seen'. And people wonder why jobs go to others!

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19Notorious_Pig(117 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

The earthquake occurred at approximately 2:26am. The quake was caused my Bob Hagan thumping his chest, as he exited the bar at closing time. I kid because I can....just like the rest of you "Forum Experts" that speculate on just about anything and blame the opposite person/persons that you agree with. The only legitimate comment here is:
1- There was an earthquake, which is verified by the USGS.
2- Nobody else knows exactly what happened and it's still under investigation.

When we DO find out what happened, there is a good chance that half of you will say, 'See? I knew it. I called it. I was 100% sure it happened just the way I said it did." The other half will say, "I still blame (fill in the blank) and there is a conspiracy. I don't believe it."

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20thirtyninedollars(611 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

The USGS doesn't even have the resources to map fault lines on the east coast so these oil companies have free reign to drill where they please. The gov't should make them pay for the fault line studies so we have a better idea and possibly prevent this from happening again. Obviously there is a fault that is running through this area. This well isn't that far from Downtown where the last quake hit..

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2176Ytown(1370 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

No earthquakes in Texas or North Dakota? Maybe not until fracking came along.



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22eevo(51 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Drill baby drill. These residents need to quit whining about a couple tremors.

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23CongressWatcher(225 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

There are earthquakes happening in Texas now as well.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E1OAU...

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24Silence_Dogood(1677 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Common citizen you need to look to the state of OKlahoma to see the correlation..
The usgs site shows dozens of earthquakes with a mag of 2.5 or greater just this last week. Earthquakes were uncommon events there until 2010 and then the number of events increased exponentially . Google earthquakes for that state showing a year to year comparison will reflect a very disturbing increase in activity that at first blush looks like it coincides with the burgeoning fracking industry.
Please don't bunch me in with the antifracking tree hugging nut jobs, I am a drill baby drill advocate if for no other reason then energy Independance and the ability to tell the Arabs to pack sand. But the data is the data and only a fool will chose to ignore it.

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25kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

So Hagan supports Fracking! News to me. I always thought he was in bed with Susie B. and that gang at the Unitarian Chapel. Next we're going to hear that he "Doesn't" Support Legalizing Marijuana- that would be a real surprise- but then again Bobbie Hagan only firmly believes in one thing- BOBBIE HAGAN.

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26Notorious_Pig(117 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

I don't see what the big deal is. I register more than a 2.8 reading on the scale just when I fart.....so this is a non-story. It's just meant to make you forum trolls argue amongst yourselves. Call me when something bad actually happens. By the way, how much damage did this quake cause? Did a cup even fall off the wall and break? And if you look at the statistics, there are more than 1 MILLION earthquakes per year that measure 2.9 or less. So really....this is a NON-STORY!!!


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27ondaedg(19 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

I would urge anyone who is shouting "drill baby drill" to first disclose whether you are receiving royalties from fracking or are employed by the Oil and Gas Industry. It may shed some light on to the motive from your posts. It is clear to me that there are some individuals who are being disingenuous about who they are and who they represent here.

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28DSquared(1788 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

At least no one died from these earthquakes. Unlike Government Motors killing drivers, covering it up, and being shielded because of their gub'mint bailout(mob takeover). And they have the nerve to pat themselves on the back while they steal from the working man and put their customers 6 feet under.

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29Silence_Dogood(1677 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

I do not receive royalties from fracking. I am not employed by the oil and gas industry. I am not being disingenuous about who I am, as much as Ben Franklin was not being disingenuous when he described himself as a little old lady. But you can't verify whether I am a little old lady any more then you can verify that I don't work for BP.
Does glbtactivist (gay,lesbian,bisexual,transgender, activist) have to spell out to the world the he/she/it is into kinky sex any more then UticaShale has to point out that he wants to rape the world of all that evil natural gas. Their opinion is just that, an opinion based on their life experiences, is a disclaimer really required as a preface to their views.

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30Silence_Dogood(1677 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Ondaedg you urged those that post to disclose their relationship to the oil/gas industry. Many post on a variety of topics giving their non-expert opinions (the American way) on a plethora of subjects. But I can't help but notice that this is the only subject that you post on so I am wondering what your motives are. Do you work for a coal company, perhaps a bicycle company, or maybe you are an Arab Sheik trying to prevent America from becoming energy independent. Please stop being disingenuous and tell the truth.

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31oh13voter(1208 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

I am enjoying this rush to judgement without facts by the fractivists.
The ODNR is taking the proper approach, slow methodical (scientific) and deliberate. It is looking for the facts. I know this bothers the lefties because they don't care about facts.

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