# of Youngstown Earthquakes go from 2 to 11 – Fracking to Blame?

earthquakeTwo days ago MDN told you about a pair of earthquakes near Youngstown, OH (see 2 New Earthquakes Near Youngstown, OH – Fracking Connection?). That number has now grown. So far there have been a total of 11 measurable earthquakes ranging from 1.2 (not felt by humans) to 3.0 (barely felt by some humans). We suspect most people around Mahoning County didn’t feel anything, but that doesn’t stop mass hysteria when it’s announced that there have been a series of earthquakes and the only thing (supposedly) going on in the area is drilling and fracking.

As we previously pointed out, we are aware of one instance–in England–where fracking over an active fault caused an earthquake. So it can happen. But that’s one time out of 60,000+ horizontally, hydraulically fractured shale wells worldwide (maybe more than that now). Statistically it’s zero. We need to keep perspective in this situation. Initially the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) said there are no active Class II injection wells in the area pumping waste fluids deep below the surface for disposal, and so the well being drilled and fracked by Hilcorp near the epicenter of the quake looks like the prime candidate as the cause. But one news story we’ve read (below) seems to cast doubt. There may be injection wells, which also have been known to cause earthquakes when injecting near a fault, operating in the area…
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Local Town Slows CONSOL’s Plan to Drill at Pittsburgh Airport

More than a year ago the Pittsburgh International Airport, located about 20 miles west of downtown Pittsburgh, elicited bids to have shale drilling done on 9,263 acres of airport-owned land. After some toing and froing, CONSOL Energy was awarded the contract. After some more toing and froing, CONSOL raised the lease signing bonus to 50 million smackeroos (see CONSOL Increases Bonus Offer to Pgh Airport by 2.4 Times to $50M). Then the real work began. CONSOL has put together a plan to drill 47 wells on 6 well pads, building three water impoundments (see CONSOL Energy Reveals Drilling Plan for Pittsburgh Airport). CONSOL is going to extraordinary lengths with the airport project, including the use of all-electric drilling rigs (a first in the Marcellus). Problem is, three people on the Findlay Township board have the power to approve, or not, the permits to drill. Findlay has CONSOL by the proverbial short hairs, especially since the right to zone oil & gas activities by local municipalities was upheld when the Act 13 law was trampled by seven PA towns that sued and won in state Supreme Court–a decision handed down just a few months ago.

Last night CONSOL presented their safety plan to the three Findlay board members and interested local residents who attended the board’s regular meeting. The bone of contention (for some local residents) is the location for one of the proposed drill pads–about a half mile from a populated neighborhood. When the hour plus presentation by CONSOL was over, and local residents had had their say, the Findlay board members decided to postpone a decision to approve CONSOL’s permits, yet again…
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OH Gov. Kasich’s One-Track ‘Tax the Utica’ Mindset

You have to hand it to Ohio’s RINO Gov. John “foreigner hunter” Kasich–he has a single-track mind when it comes to taxing Utica Shale drilling. He wants a piece o’ that drillin’ pie so he can transfer the money from those who produce (the drillers and the landowners), to those who don’t (voters). Kasich is hell-bent on assessing a 2.75% tax on all Utica Shale drilling. The Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA), which did support a smaller increase, is pushing back against Kasich’s latest demand saying it’s “unacceptable to the association.” Good for them–someone needs to be the voice of reason on this issue.

Here’s more on Kasich’s desire to take the easy way out–to tax more–instead of manning up and doing the right thing–cutting more:
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Fired ODNR Official Returns with Views on Best Locations in Utica

Larry Wickstrom used to be Ohio’s official state geologist and chief of the ODNR’s Division of Geological Survey. He was fired in May 2012 because he updated and released a map showing new boundaries for the Utica Shale–where the best places to drill would be located (see Did This Map Get the Ohio State Geologist Fired?). The map update caused some of the previous lines to change, and that upset a few people, especially Larry’s political bosses. That map has since changed by quite a bit. Drilling has drifted south to counties like Harrison, Guernsey, Belmont, Noble and Monroe.

The very talented Wickstrom had been employed for 29 years by ODNR, but his exit didn’t mean he was washed up. Far from it. Larry is back (in private business). Last week he shared his keen and experienced insights with the 1,500 people who attended the recent Ohio Oil and Gas Association winter meeting in Columbus on the latest thinking about the best places to drill in the Ohio Utica. He notes that the sweet spot for Utica drilling is much smaller than folks thought just a few years ago…
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Forced Pooling Circus (ie Hearing) Coming to Lawrence County, PA

The circus will come to town in New Castle (Lawrence County), PA on March 25 and 26. No, not Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, but something sure to be far more entertaining. There will be a PA Dept. of Environmental Protection hearing on Hilcorp’s request to force four landowners to allow drilling under their property. We first brought you this story last October (see Hilcorp Uses PA Forced Pooling Law Against Lawrence Cty Landowner). MDN has always held a dim view of forced pooling, so you can’t say we didn’t warn them. Hilcorp has brought this on themselves by invoking a 1961 PA law to sue the landowners to allow drilling.

Here’s the latest, including details on where the circus, er, hearing will be held…
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WV Drilling Cuttings in Landfill Bill May Get 2nd Life, If…

Two days ago MDN told you about the West Virginia legislature’s failure to act on House Bill 4411 that would codify into law the current directive from the Secretary of the Dept. of Environmental Protection that provides guidelines on accepting drill cuttings at landfills (see WV Legislature Fumbles the Ball on Landfill Bill, Does Nothing). It’s possible that the bill will get a second chance at legal life–if Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin calls for a special session and if the bill is on his list to consider. In WV the legislature meets for 60 calendar days at the beginning of they year, each year. They need to get their work done during those two months. After that, the Governor can call them back, but they can only take up those bills specified by the Gov.

Here’s more detail of what went on “behind the scenes” as WV legislature grappled with HB4411 during the closing days of the regular session:
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Earth to Mars (School District) – Time to Check into Funny Farm?

We wonder what they teach at the Mars Area School District (Butler County, PA). One thing they don’t teach is logic and scientific inquiry. Probably too busy showing American Idol re-runs to the kiddies to bother with heftier education pursuits. How else can you explain a school board, and parents, who turn down $1 million+ to lease 175 acres of school land for shale drilling that would happen more than a mile below solid rock with no adverse affects and with no surface disturbances? We’d call it mass insanity (time to check into the local psychiatric hospital)–but that would be unkind.

Tuesday night the Mars Area School District school board voted 9-0 to reject an offer from Rex Energy to lease the school’s property, which sits next to private property Rex has already leased and will still drill on anyway. The Rex offer was $4,000 per acre up front as a signing bonus, and another $330,000 in advance royalties, for a grand total of $1 million. Drilling will go on all around the school, but those sharp-as-a-tack board members have now denied the children $1 million they could of had. Hey, it’s always for “the children,” right? Heartless board. The anti-drillers present for the vote were positively orgasmic that the school board voted it down unanimously. Go figure…
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