January 3 News: Expert Links Oil and Gas Wastewater Well With Series of Ohio Earthquakes

Other stories below: Court puts cross-state air pollution rule on hold; California farmers and skiers fret about a dry spell

Expert: Wastewater well in Ohio triggered quakes

A northeast Ohio well used to dispose of wastewater from oil and gas drilling almost certainly caused a series of 11 minor quakes in the Youngstown area since last spring, a seismologist investigating the quakes said Monday.

Research is continuing on the now-shuttered injection well at Youngstown and seismic activity, but it might take a year for the wastewater-related rumblings in the earth to dissipate, said John Armbruster of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York.

Brine wastewater dumped in wells comes from drilling operations, including the so-called fracking process to extract gas from underground shale that has been a source of concern among environmental groups and some property owners. Injection wells have also been suspected in quakes in Astabula in far northeast Ohio, and in Arkansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma, Armbruster said.

See Shale Shocked: “Highly Probable” Fracking Caused U.K. Earthquakes, and It’s Linked to Oklahoma Temblors.

Thousands of gallons (liters) of brine were injected daily into the Youngstown well that opened in 2010 until its owner, Northstar Disposal Services LLC, agreed Friday to stop injecting the waste into the earth as a precaution while authorities assessed any potential links to the quakes.

After the latest and largest quake Saturday at 4.0 magnitude, state officials announced their beliefs that injecting wastewater near a fault line had created enough pressure to cause seismic activity. They said four inactive wells within a five-mile (8 kilometer) radius of the Youngstown well would remain closed. But they also stressed that injection wells are different from drilling wells that employ fracking.

Court puts on hold regulation to reduce power plant pollution spoiling air downwind

A federal court Friday put on hold a controversial Obama administration regulation aimed at reducing power plant pollution in 27 states that contributes to unhealthy air downwind.

More than a dozen electric power companies, municipal power plant operators and states had sought to delay the rules until the litigation plays out. A federal appeals court in Washington approved their request Friday.

The EPA, in a statement, said it was confident that the rule would ultimately be upheld on its merits. But the agency said it was “disappointing” the regulation’s health benefits would be delayed, even if temporarily.

Republicans in Congress have attempted to block the rule using legislation, saying it would shutter some older, coal-fired power plants and kill jobs. While those efforts succeeded in the Republican-controlled House, the Senate — with the help of six Republicans — in November rejected an attempt to stay the regulation. And the White House had threatened to veto it.

Coastal villages in Nigeria protest as crude oil washes ashore

Nigerian villagers say oil washing up on the coast comes from a Royal Dutch Shell loading accident last month that caused the biggest spill in Africa’s top producer in more than 13 years.

Shell denies that any of the oil is from its 200,000 barrel per day Bonga facility, 120 km offshore and accounting for 10 percent of monthly oil flows, which was shut down by the spill on Dec. 20.

Shell says five ships were used to disperse and contain the spill and that this kept any oil from washing ashore.

But local villagers, as well as environmental and rights groups, dispute this account, saying the oil is still at large, coating parts of the coast, killing fish and sparking protests.

California Farmers, Ski Areas Fret About Dry Spell

California’s wet season has started off bone dry, leaving water managers and the state’s huge agriculture industry nervously eyeing the prospect that a dry spell could turn into another drought.

The shortage of snow, which has already hurt ski resorts in a number of states, follows an unusually heavy snowfall last year that has left adequate water supplies in reservoirs.

Lake Oroville, for example, stood at 115% of its average level as of Dec. 29, compared to 49% on the same date in 2009, when California was still locked in a three-year drought. As a result, California officials remain hopeful that new restrictions on water usage won’t be needed, but they aren’t ruling out the possibility entirely.

“It’s too early to hit the panic button,” said David Rizzardo, chief of snow surveys for the state Department of Water Resources.

The season’s precipitation totals could still come in normal if the storm floodgates open in mid-January, officials say. Preliminary forecasts point to improving chances of snow following a high pressure ridge that has been stubbornly parked off the Pacific coast for weeks, routing storms far to the north.

Acid rain’s blind spot

University of Michigan researchers say future generations of sugar maple trees are at risk unless soft spots in the federal Clean Air Act are strengthened to address an old nemesis: acid rain.

Precipitation that is highly acidic from burned fossil fuels has been largely under control since the early 1990s. In 1989, the federal government adopted a system to control acid rain through large reductions of sulfur dioxide. Electricity-producing coal-fired power plants were allowed to meet tougher limits through swaps of so-called emission credits.

Industrial leaders and environmentalists agree that cap-and-trade has worked well for acid rain. But it isn’t suitable for all forms of pollution. In particular, it wasn’t designed to address nitrogen.

World-first hybrid shark found off Australia

Scientists said on Tuesday that they had discovered the world’s first hybrid sharks in Australian waters, a potential sign the predators were adapting to cope with climate change.

The mating of the local Australian black-tip shark with its global counterpart, the common black-tip, was an unprecedented discovery with implications for the entire shark world, said lead researcher Jess Morgan.

“It’s very surprising because no one’s ever seen shark hybrids before, this is not a common occurrence by any stretch of the imagination,” Morgan, from the University of Queensland, told AFP.

“This is evolution in action.”

Colin Simpfendorfer, a partner in Morgan’s research from James Cook University, said initial studies suggested the hybrid species was relatively robust, with a number of generations discovered across 57 specimens.

The find was made during cataloguing work off Australia’s east coast when Morgan said genetic testing showed certain sharks to be one species when physically they looked to be another.

The Australian black-tip is slightly smaller than its common cousin and can only live in tropical waters, but its hybrid offspring have been found 2,000 kilometres down the coast, in cooler seas.


18 Responses to January 3 News: Expert Links Oil and Gas Wastewater Well With Series of Ohio Earthquakes

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    It’s difficult to state the level of confidence in proving the relationship between fossil fuel drilling and earthquakes. The cause and effect makes sense, and there is evidence in the form of statistical correlations, but just enough of a crack exists to allow the oil and gas companies to wiggle out of this one. Absolute proof is probably not obtainable here.

    It’s hard to say what level of confidence would be required in order to stop the drilling. Probably 100%, and even then they would probably keep drilling. After all, we know that burning fossil fuels sends greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, that coal plants kill people, gas fracking poisons aquifers, and that we start wars in order to keep the oil flowing.

    It all comes back to the fact that the fossil fuel companies have bought our government, and financially intimidated key media outlets. Until that changes, not much else will.

  2. MarkfromLexington says:

    I’m finding James Hansen’s 10 November paper on Climate Variability and Climate Change to be fascinating reading.

    3 sigma climate extremes used to cover less than 1% of land area, but now cover ~10% of land area.

    He concludes the climate dice are becoming more “loaded”.

    Highly recommended.

  3. Colorado Bob says:

    3 sigma climate extremes –

    Southern Thailand has been hit with damaging floods following extreme rainfall topping 20 inches within two days.

    Tens of thousands of homes have been inundated in the four southernmost provinces, Yala, Pattani, Songkhla and Narathiwat, the Australian ABC News website said on Tuesday. Alerts warned of mudslides.

    Meteorological data available to showed rainfall of 25.6 inches within 72 hours at Nakhon Si Thammarat. Normal monthly rainfall here would be about 7 inches, November and December being at the heart of the local rainy season.

  4. Colorado Bob says:

    Jan. 3 (Bloomberg) — Edinburgh Airport was closed to incoming flights today as winds of more than 100 miles per hour battered the Scottish capital. Elsewhere in the country, gales forced the closure of the busiest road bridges …… The strongest gust in Scotland today was recorded at Blackford Hill on the south side of Edinburgh at 102 miles per hour between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., Chivers said. In Glasgow the wind reached 91 miles per hour.

  5. Colorado Bob says:

    3 sigma climate extremes –
    This is the fourth storm to hit Scotland in the last 30 days, with winds of 100 mph or greater. Dec. 8th saw gusts to 165 mph. As they roll Northeast they smack into Norway, which had 120 mph winds over Christmas.

    As the extra heat builds in the oceans and then streams northward in the form of water vapor every fall & winter, insurance on the North Sea is going to get pricey.

  6. dbmetzger says:

    Fracking Implicated in Pollution of US Groundwater
    The oil and gas drilling practice called hydraulic fracturing has, for the first time, been implicated in the pollution of groundwater supplies in the United States.

  7. Joan Savage says:

    How about that weather hitting the oil rigs in the North Sea?
    Here’s a list of the rigs.

  8. Joan Savage says:

    Russian oil rig sinking casts doubt on Arctic plan

    By NATALIYA VASILYEVA, AP Business Writer – Dec 23, 2011

    MOSCOW (AP) — The sinking of a floating oil rig that left more than 50 crew dead or missing is intensifying fears that Russian companies searching for oil in remote areas are unprepared for emergencies — and could cause a disastrous spill in the pristine waters of the Arctic.

    Only four months ago, Russian energy giant Gazprom sent Russia’s first oil platform to the environmentally sensitive region, and industry experts and environmentalists warned it is unfit for the harsh conditions and is too far from rescue crews to be reached quickly in case of an accident. They are demanding Russia put Arctic oil projects on hold.

    Full AP article at

  9. EDpeak says:

    Key quote from second link:

    Armbruster said Monday he expects more quakes will occur despite the shutdown of the Youngstown well.

    “The earthquakes will trickle on as a kind of a cascading process once you’ve caused them to occur,” he said. “This one year of pumping is a pulse that has been pushed into the ground, and it’s going to be spreading out for at least a year.”

  10. EDpeak says:

    Oh and next time CP runs stories about how a certain candidates (especially from a certain party) complain that the “GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO BACK OFF” show them this:

    From Fortune magazine, this is a survey not of progressives but of EXECUTIVES:

    “Nearly 7 in 10 respondents say they think government intervention is necessary to jump-start job creation: Nearly half say public-private training partnerships are needed, and more than a third are looking for tax credits and 22% think that government-backed employee training programs will help spur job creation.”

  11. Michael T says:

    Peter Sinclair, who produces the Climate Denial Crock of the Week video series, has a new video out on the mini ice age myth:

  12. John Tucker says:

    GAS – Major Pollution concerns, earthquakes and add climate concerns to the list before its even used and shale gas makes it much worse:

    Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations – A letter

    Natural gas is composed largely of methane, and 3.6% to 7.9% of the methane from shale-gas production escapes to the atmosphere in venting and leaks over the life-time of a well. These methane emissions are at least 30% more than and perhaps more than twice as great as those from conventional gas. ( )

    Then appearing today in the LA Times:
    Natural gas: Cheap, clean and risky
    if the system for the exploration, extraction, compression, piping and burning of natural gas leaks by even 2.5%, it is as bad as coal. (,0,1747653.story )


    As a result, some three trillion cubic feet of methane leak into the air every year ( )

    92 trillion cubic feet (~2005 world use) ( )

    Emissions from natural gas production accounted for approximately 66 percent of CH4 emissions and about 25 percent of non-energy CO2 emissions from the natural gas industry in 2006.
    ( )

    If at 2.5 percent its as bad as coal and currently leaks are around 3.3 Percent (probably low end) making that makes NGas MUCH worse than coal.

    I dont think Natural Gas is a valid “bridge fuel” any longer. Not the way its being done now. Also this means small installations of renewable energy also that give an excuse for large natural gas conversions could conceitedly be, in total, worse than coal.
    I think its conceivable climate change has been made worse by the sloppy natural gas conversion.

    And things like shale gas are making things worse. Not better.

    Correct ??

  13. John Tucker says:

    Considering what we have been though, just in the ME Joan I doubt that will even slow them down all that much.

    What it probably will do is feed a need to create a infrastructure in the area.

  14. Mossy says:

    Whereas the earthquakes cannot be linked 100% with the drilling, it has raised the possibility of that linkage to a very high percentage with the people in the area, so that even those who might favor domestic gas production are now leary of it for these seimic ramifications.

    I was recently in the Youngstown area, and two relatives/neighbors independently mentioned the earthquakes and their presumed link to fracking. The gas companies are working hard to draw people into signing gas-drilling leases on their property, encouraging smaller landowners to join into mergers with others to create a larger lease.
    However, the fear of earthquakes has landowners refusing to sign, despite needing the money thereby provided.

  15. John Tucker says:

    If you think about it – its not such a stretch that Hydraulic FRACTURING AKA “creating conductive fractures” could actually cause/lead to a earthquake.

    I wonder what the largest/most destructive event possible is. A sudden large subsidence event would be possible I would think. Probably something that releases fracking fluid into a watershed/aquifer would be one of the worst things possible. Unless a related EQ were to harm a reactor, chemical plat or even worse, a large dam.

  16. David B. Benson says:

    The risk appears large.

    One should also include the CO2 from burning natgas to pump the remainder to custoners.

    Kindly post about these risks on many blogs.

  17. Raul M. says:

    Going with lessons learned-
    After the oil spills from the hurricanes in the Gulf (Ivan, for example), great efforts went into effect to straiten out the problems.
    Now after BP cleaned up the Gulf of Pollution, the beach sands are of a different color.
    It turned into learning even more lessons.

  18. John Tucker says:

    I did not think about that. Thanks:

    “natural gas is highly pressurized as it travels through an interstate pipeline. To ensure that the natural gas flowing through any one pipeline remains pressurized, compression of this natural gas is required periodically along the pipe. This is accomplished by compressor stations, usually placed at 40 to 100 mile intervals along the pipeline. The natural gas enters the compressor station, where it is compressed by either a turbine, motor, or engine.”

    “Turbine compressors gain their energy by using up a small proportion of the natural gas that they compress.” ( )

    Approximately 585 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of gas, or less than three percent of total gas consumed, is used by the compressor stations ( )

    Also these stations would increase emissions.