New regulations are coming to the Ohio natural gas industry thanks to the discovery that misplaced hydraulic fracturing wells are the cause of earthquakes in the area. Ohio regulators discovered that lack of geological information on fracking sites led to earthquakes in the Youngstown area just months after hydraulic fracturing for natural gas began there. The regulators have now instituted stiffer regulations for the natural gas extraction industry that include submitting geological logs to the state, a ban on drilling into Precambrian rock, and the adoption of new state of the art machinery that will help monitor wells to make sure they are safe.

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“Ohioans demand smart environmental safeguards that protect our environment and promote public health. These new standards accomplish that goal,” said Natural Resources Director James Zehringer. The state of Ohio was granted regulatory authority over its own wells by the Environmental Protection Agency decades ago because their regulations met or exceeded federal regulations. Regulators in Ohio say earthquakes in the area were caused in part by the mishandling of brine, a byproduct of the fracking process. Fracking involves shooting water mixed with toxic chemicals at high pressures into rocks holding natural gas reserves. Once the water is used it must be disposed of. Water treatment facilities are unable to handle it and thus natural gas companies often re-inject it into the ground.

In the case of Youngstown, geologists agree that the circumstances regarding the earthquakes were coincidental but state regulators are being cautious. It was found that the brine was injected into Precambrian base rock where a fault was later discovered. That fault is believed to have caused the earthquake and regulators are now calling all Precambrian rock sites off limits to fracking (current such wells will be plugged). New regulations and geographic surveys will help the natural gas industry avoid such incidents in the future. Perhaps they could just stop the emissions-spewing practice of fracking and avoid the whole mess altogether.

Via USA Today

Photos by Progress Ohio, Juggernautco and Ragesoss