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Ohio state regulators announced tough new regulations on Friday after concluding that the injection of wastewater underground as part of the controversial gas-drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” had almost certainly caused a dozen earthquakes near one well.
The regulations will require well operators to supply extensive geological data before requesting a new drill site, avoid certain rock formations, and keep track of pressure, volume, and the chemical makeup of all drilling water using state-of-the-art technology.
Investigators pointed to “a number of coincidental circumstances” connecting the quakes in northeast Ohio, which began in March 2011 and continued to the end of the year, with a well which had begun operation three months earlier. They also noted the presence of a fault in the rocks that was identified only after drilling began.
“Our evidence strongly suggests that the injection fluid lubricated a previously unmapped fault and contributed to seismic activity,” a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources explained. “It was an unfortunate situation, and the operator drilled the well to specifications and operated within all permitted levels.”