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Geologist: Fracking Can Cause Small Earthquakes

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Scientists are exploring a new concern about gas extraction in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale beds:  Earthquakes.

To break up the shale, to get to the gas, energy companies pump millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground. Temple University Geologist Nick Devatzes says if large quantities of water are injected near a fault, it can be destabilizing.

“It has the potential for providing that fluid volume to push those surfaces apart and allow them to slip or it can push so hard that it literally lifts the two surfaces away from each other and they open.”

So, if it’s done near a fault line, it can cause movement — very slight movement, under three on the Richter scale.

Devatzes says this has been known since the 50’s, when waste from weapons development was injected underground, inducing earthquakes, but a couple of recent studies have tied fracking to small earthquakes in England and Oklahoma.

He says the National Academy of Sciences is expected to release a report about the connection next year. At this point, though, scientists are more concerned about water contamination and carbon emissions from fracking than the small earthquakes it can cause.

Reported by Pat Loeb, KYW Newsradio 1060

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  • grumpy

    The Federal Government must stop this head in the sand approach to “fracking”. It’s a cheap and dangerous way to get natural gas. They have already created a shortage of sand. We cannot afford to end up with a shortage of our water resources or even worse, contaminated drinking water.
    This process MUST be stopped until proven safe, There are safer ways to reach this gas without causing permanent damage to OUR environment.

  • Joe Rooney

    I found this a particularly weak article. Beneath the inflammatory headline there is no useful information. Hydraulic fracking has been in use for 50 years in the USA, how many earthquakes have been attributed to this process so far? That might be more informative than this tangential opinion of one Temple geologist. I guess that information wouldn’t lend itself to your headline.

  • Jon

    Fracking should be a federal crime. It contaminates groundwater too and has the potential to fatally poison people.

    • tim

      It definitely pollutes groundwater. No question. I used to sample polluted groundwater around gas stations. Those tanks are small beans compared to the gas drilling that is done in these mountains. The gas is not contained a little bit.

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