This month California was hit with two moderate sized earthquakes. On March 17 in West Los Angeles, a 4.4 quake hit, and then in La Habra, a 5.1 quake hit on March 28. Seismic activity is nothing new in California, which is home to numerous faults that run along the Pacific Rim. However, policymakers are now wondering if some quakes are caused by oil and natural gas drilling (fracking).
The Los Angeles City Council has called on city staff to look at the links between fracking and earthquakes.
“According to a motion Councilmen Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin, and seconded by
Councilman Bernard Parks, seismologists described the 6:26 a.m. earthquake as the strongest to “hit directly under the Santa Monica Mountains in the 80 years since seismic record-keeping began in the area.”
“Coincidentally, now that we’ve had an earthquake that’s about the size that seems to be happening in other states, it seemed like a time to focus on this more clearly,” Koretz said. “There are states that historically have not had earthquakes, they’ve been getting earthquake swarms now that fracking has begun.”
Fracking involves injecting a mixture of water and chemicals at high pressure into the ground to free up trapped natural gas and oil deposits.
U.S. Geological Survey officials said there has been a dramatic rise in recent years of “noticeable earthquakes” that exceed 3.0-magnitudes in the central and eastern U.S., according to the motion. The agency also found that some of the quakes happening in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Ohio were caused by activities related to fracking.
Monday’s earthquake was centered about five miles northwest of Westwood, near where active oil extraction activities have been reported, according to the motion.
A group called the Fractracker Alliance said the epicenter of the quake was 8 miles from where a disposal well where fracking wastewater was injected at high pressure.”
With the Northridge earthquake in 1994 costing over $40 billion in total damages, policy makers will be weighing the benefits of fracking against the potential costs.
A study recently confirmed that 5.7 quake that struck in Oklahoma on November 6, 2011 was caused by fracking related wastewater injection.
California Governor Jerry Brown has not come out against fracking; last year he signed a bill that some say will create opportunities for fracking in California.