Peele: Would fracking be good for North Carolina?

Feb. 28, 2013 @ 12:20 PM

North Carolinians are considering the pros and cons of fracking. This problem is of major concern, not only in Chatham and Lee Counties, but in large swaths of land across the state.

A fracking bill is now being considered by our legislature.

In Chatham County, they await more scientific evidence on whether fracking will seriously damage the environment.

There are many studies on the subject, including the question of the possible connection between fracking and earthquakes.

Some earthquakes hit near Trinidad, Colo. In 2011 the USGS set up a monitoring network.  They wrote: “A magnitude 5.3 earthquake occurred within two kilometers of two high volume injection wells. These quakes were caused by fluid injection.”

It is believed that the fracking itself does not cause the earthquakes. They result from the way the waste-water, the result of fracking, is pumped back into the ground.  The drilling companies drill injection wells, into which they pump the wastewater  – sometimes at high pressure.

In Youngstown, Ohio, D & L Energy Group conducted a test. They drilled 200 feet down into solid Precambrian rock. Then they injected wastewater into the well. Three months later, some earth tremors occurred. The wastewater had seeped nearly 2500 feet below the borehole. 

Up to the time the borehole was drilled, there had been no earth tremors for a hundred years. Within three months of the drilling, there were 12 small earthquakes. So the well was shut down. After the well was shut down, the number of quakes dramatically decreased.

“There will be no more drilling into Precambrian rock in Ohio!” said Heidi Hetzel-Evans, of the Ohio Dept. Of Natural Resources.

This event is an important piece of evidence that should cause us to have serious doubts about the negative effects of fracking.

Joe and Mary Reneau own a home in Prague, Okla. On the night of Nov. 5, 2011, they were minding their own business, quietly getting ready for bed. All of a sudden, there was a terrible, loud sound, “like an airliner crashing into our back yard,” Joe said. “We were watching the walls go back and forth.”

The home was completely smashed up. The foundation sank two inches and the chimney fell into the home. They were very lucky to escape unharmed.

It was an earthquake registering 5.6 on the Richter scale, the largest ever recorded in Oklahoma. The Reneaus still feel after-shocks which rattle their windows. They do not hang up their pictures, for they fear they will be jiggled off the walls.

The only likely cause of the earthquake was the Wilzetta Fault. That fault was dormant, and prior to the earthquake, experts thought there was absolutely no chance that the fault could produce an earthquake.

Katie Keranen, an assistant professor of geophysics did a study of the matter. Her research indicates the earthquake was likely caused by injection of wastewater derived from “dewatering” – separating crude oil from a soupy brine that contains oil.

Those that favor fracking will not be impressed by Keranen’s conclusion. They will point out that there are dozens of places where fracking is being done and there are no earthquakes. They will say that in the Oklahoma and Colorado cases, there is no clear proof that earthquakes were caused by fracking.

That is correct. A specific causation cannot be proved. Yet they would be hard-pressed to explain the Ohio case.

It’s really simple. Two points. One: If fracking is instigated and damage results, we can never return to the pristine condition of our land. Then it’s too late. Second: Those that favor fracking have oodles of land outside North Carolina to do their fracking.

Leave our state alone!