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Fracking and earthquakes: Ohio halts controversial drilling practice

MAHONING COUNTY, Ohio (Omar Villafranca) -- When a rare 4.0 earthquake hit near Youngstown, Ohio, three years ago, many suspected the cause was fracking.
   
Now, almost two and a half years and dozens of tremors later, state geologists confirm a probable link.  75-year-old Richard Grimm says he reluctantly agreed to lease his land in Mahoning County, Ohio to an energy company for fracking.  Now he's feeling the quakes.

"A little bit of trembling in the house, pictures shaking in the house," Grimm said.
   
For the first time, state scientists in Ohio are making a direct link between fracking and earthquakes.  The drilling process shoots a mix of water, sand and other chemicals into rock a mile or more underground.  That's where some say it can trigger activity along earthquake fault lines.

Dr. Raymond Beiersdorfer of Youngstown State said, "It's important to figure out where exactly in the earth these earthquakes occurred and how is it related to the fracking."

Researchers have recorded more than 100 mild quakes in Ohio since they started looking into the possible link between earthquakes and drilling 15 years ago.  The state has temporarily shut down a group of wells suspected of causing quakes and is setting tougher standards for drilling permits.  But many see fracking as a boost for an economy that struggled after the steel mills closed.
   
Industry spokesman Mike Chadsey says companies will follow the new regulations but believes the drilling is still in the state's best interest.

"This is a powerful thing in the state of Ohio. It's changing a lot of lives, it's saving a lot families, a lot of businesses. Slowing it down is certainly something we want to watch," Chadsey said.
   
Grimm says he'd gladly give back the money he received from the energy company, "In a heartbeat. It's not worth it, it is absolutely not worth it."
   
All he wants now is to keep his land from quaking.  Ohio's new drilling standards will not affect hundreds of wells already in place, only new wells.


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