SB3492 – Safeguard Illinoisans in the Active Earthquake Zones

Check the status of this bill: SB3492

The Risk: Earthquakes have risen sharply in the Midwest in the last decade, a rise that corresponds to the rise in fracturing operations in many states. This uptick in seismic events represents a more than hundred-fold increase in overall earthquakes. The states reporting unusually elevated levels of seismic activity include Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia (Science, Ellsworth, 2013).  Many seismologists across the country have determined that this uptick in the numbers of earthquakes represents induced seismicity from the disposal of oil, liquid natural gas and natural gas extraction waste in Class 2 injection wells, and that evidence for triggered seismicity in response to injection of these waste fluids is becoming incontrovertible, (Science, Ellsworth, 2013).  The disposal of 280 billion gallons a year, of toxic, chemical laden, mostly radioactive fracturing waste water, (brine) across the country is causing earthquakes.

Some of the earthquakes are barely perceptible, but some of them have been quite large, (5.7 Prague, OK, 2011), and have caused real property damage, injured residents and terrorized communities, “Residents Baffled by Terrifying Loud Booms in Oklahoma”.

Overview: In OK, according to a joint statement by both USGS and OGS, residents have experienced more than 200 earthquakes measuring at least a magnitude 3.0 since the beginning of 2009.  Recently 103 earthquakes rocked the area in a single 3 day period, from 2/14/14 – 2/17/14, many of them cracking walls and foundations.,

Another example is the Guy-Greenbrier area of Arkansas, which experienced only one earthquake of magnitude 2.5 or greater in all of 2007, the numbers grew to 10 in 2009, and in 2010 there were 54 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater (Kerr, 2012), and on February 27, 2011, a magnitude 4.7 earthquake. Many of the earthquakes were tied to Class 2 injection disposal wells in the area, which were ordered to shut down, and the earthquakes stopped.

Youngstown, Ohio experienced a series of earthquakes in 2011/2012, then a magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck. Gov. John Kasich subsequently ordered that four nearby Class 2 injection well projects shut down and the earthquakes slowed.

In the Barnett Shale area of TX, twenty earthquakes were recently felt by residents in Azle and Springtown, outside of Fort Worth in 1 month. At least nine earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or larger having occurred, compared with none in the preceding 25 years.

The Feb. 27, 2011, Praque, OK earthquake was studied by Columbia University geologists partnering with the USGS and produced this report, The results of the Columbia University study showed that the Class 2 injection disposal wells, suspected of causing the earthquakes, were in operation for at least 18 years indicating that there can be decades-long lags between oil, liquid natural gas, natural gas drilling wastewater injection and seismic events. It was suspected that over the years, pressure in the wells increased and may have eventually lubricated known seismic faults. This report puts into question whether a Green Light, Yellow Light and Red Light system of mitigating induced seismicity from Class 2 injection wells is enough to protect residents and property in and near our active earthquake zones in Illinois.

In the testimony of Stanford University geophysicist Mark Zoback to the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, June 19th, 2012, he recommended an empirically derived practical framework for reducing the probability of induced seismicity – five straightforward steps:

(1) It is important to avoid injection into active faults and faults in brittle rock.

(2) Formations should be selected for injection (and injection rates should be limited) to minimize pore pressure changes.

(3) Local seismic monitoring arrays should be installed when there is a potential for injection to trigger seismicity.

(4) Protocols should be established in advance to define how operations will be modified if seismicity is triggered.

(5) Operators need to be prepared to reduce injection rates or abandon wells if triggered seismicity poses any hazard.

The active faults and active earthquake zones of the New Madrid and Wabash Valley in Southern Illinois are poorly defined and mapped out. Per the ILGS, they do not have maps of faults in the deep basement rock for the state which are responsible for Illinois earthquakes, and the Wabash Valley seismic zone is ill defined and has no specific published boundaries, (the reason for an airbrushed ellipse on some US Geological Survey maps,

Southern Illinois is also marked by a number of other major seismically active structural features including the east-trending Cottage Grove–Rough Creek–Shawnee town fault system, the magmatic system of Hicks dome and the Fluorspar district, and the NNW-trending La Salle, Du Quoin, and Clay City fold systems (Nelson 1991; Kolata and Nelson 1991).

Induced seismicity from Class 2 injection wells in active earthquake zones carries with it real risks to the public health, safety and welfare of Illinois residents, and risks to property, businesses and the environment. These risks must be studied in more detail and communicated clearly to the residents and businesses of Southern Illinois. The risk management of induced seismicity from Class 2 well disposal of fracturing waste water has been poorly studied across the country, and poorly delineated and regulated in the HFRA. Emergency management plans, insurance levels, bonding and even mortgages may be affected by assigning probabilities of risk to different areas located within the active earthquake zones of Illinois.

There is one more issue with induced earthquakes not covered by HFRA – the mechanical integrity of Class 2 wells and horizontal fracturing wells, which is integral to whether water, air or soil contamination will occur close to these wells. The mechanical integrity of Class 2 wells and horizontal fracturing wells can be affected by seismic events near their locations. The effects of seismic events on the mechanical integrity of Class 2 wells and horizontal fracturing wells is not addressed in HFRA at all, and it has not been well studied by the geologic community.

Purpose of bill:  To halt permits for horizontal drilling with fracturing operations and Class 2 wells in the active earthquake zones in Illinois: the New Madrid, the Wabash Valley, the east-trending Cottage Grove–Rough Creek–Shawnee town fault system, the magmatic system of Hicks dome and the Fluorspar district, and the NNW-trending La Salle, Du Quoin, and Clay City fold systems (Nelson 1991; Kolata and Nelson 1991), and to set up a science-based Task Force to map areas of high, medium and low risk for induced earthquakes, and to study the mitigation and risk management of induced seismicity.

Solution: Co-sponsor and support the passage of SB3492.

Earthquakes are an unacceptable consequence of fracturing. People the world over are saying that this particular side effect of horizontal drilling with fracturing operations is too dangerous and are calling a halt to fracturing, especially in active earthquake zones. HFRA, passed last spring, does little to actually mitigate the danger of induced seismicity, given that some seismologists have determined that there can be long lag times between the injection into a Class 2 well and the induced seismicity from that well. Passage of this bill is extremely important for the health and property of residents of Southern Illinois. There is a growing awareness of the danger of induced earthquakes associated with fracturing and it has been reported to be one of the primary reasons that Southern Illinoisans are expressing their disapproval of fracturing in recent surveys.

One response to “SB3492 – Safeguard Illinoisans in the Active Earthquake Zones

  1. Pingback: “The Green Dozen” | Frack Free Illinois

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