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Is natural gas 'fracking' responsible for the recent earthquake swarms in strange locations?

Sunday, September 25, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: fracking, earthquakes, health news

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(NaturalNews) The natural gas industry and its advocates claim that hydraulic fracturing, the modern technique for extracting natural gas, also known as "fracking," is beneficial to the interests of American energy independence.

However, a simple report recently issued by KARK 4 News in Little Rock, Ark., suggests that fracking operations, which involve pumping large amounts of water and chemicals deep underground, may be responsible for triggering the mysterious earthquakes that have been striking in unusual locations across the nation in recent months.

One of at least 14 US states where fracking operations are currently active, Arkansas is not exactly the most seismically active region in the US. Though the state sits near the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ), a fault that is considered to have the highest earthquake risk outside the West Coast, the area typically only experiences a few small shakes in an average month, with larger ones occurring on an even more sporadic basis.

However, the area around Greenbrier, Ark., had experienced an unusually high frequency of small-to-mid sized earthquakes in recent months -- that is, until several local fracking operations ceased operations. While fracking was still taking place in the area, it was common to experience hundreds of earthquakes in an average month. But now that all fracking wells have been closed, the earth surrounding them has calmed significantly.

During one three-week period when fracking was still occurring in the Greenbrier area, for instance, the Arkansas Geological Survey (AGS) recorded an astounding 919 earthquakes. After the first two fracking fluid disposal wells were closed, earthquake frequency dropped to 312. And following the closure of all four wells, the number or earthquakes that occurred dropped to a mere nine, none of which clocked in above a 2.5 magnitude.

Similarly, some have suggested that fracking operations in Pennsylvania may have been at least partially responsible for the recent 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck near the unusual location of Mineral, Va., on August 23, 2011 (http://www.opednews.com/articles/Did-Frackin...).

There will, of course, always be natural earthquakes that occur without the help of man-made intervention. But in this case, it appears as though a modern technology that pumps millions of gallons of toxic fluids deep into the earth's upper crust may be helping to jostle things a little bit more than usual.

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