One year after Pa. quakes, geologists claim fracking is to blame

In the 365 days that followed the Lawrence County earthquake, the Valley has not seen any seismic activity


MAHONING TWP., Pa. (WYTV) – A year ago today, several small earthquakes rocked Lawrence County, prompting a natural gas company to voluntarily suspend all fracking activity in the area.

Just hours after a 1.9 magnitude earthquake was detected in Mahoning Township last April, Houston-based Hilcorp Energy Company shut down operations at one of the four wells on its North Beaver NC Development pad.

Now a year later, officials from Hilcorp released a statement regarding the wells’ operation:

There has been no status change to Hilcorp’s North Beaver NC Development well pad since we discontinued completion operations in 2016. The wells were placed on production at that time and we currently do not plan on resuming completion operations on those wells.”

In February, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection held a webinar about the earthquakes last year.

“They did say [the earthquakes] were due to the fracking that was going on. They were doing something — the company, Hilcorp — was doing something called zipper fracking where they had two horizontals and they were fracking both of them. That wound up triggering five earthquakes,” said Dr. Ray Biersdorfer, Youngstown State distinguished professor of geology.

So in the 365 days that followed the Lawrence County quake, how much seismic activity has the Valley seen?

“There hasn’t been any seismic activity here locally, but there was one earthquake and they shut down a well in southern Ohio,” Beirsdorfer said.

Environmentalists with Frack Free Mahoning Valley also released a statement on the anniversary of this quake:

There have been over 1,100 induced earthquakes in our region, including the now-famous Magnitude 4.0 Youngstown quake in 2011 linked to the Northstar 1 injection well. The situation is not getting any better, especially as the oil and gas industry is still operating, or applying to operate, injection wells in our now earthquake-prone area. For example, Vienna has an injection well in operation, and Brookfield is now facing the possibility that two proposed injection wells will be sited near family homes and businesses. This is unacceptable. Injection wells must be halted in order to protect the public health, safety, and well-being of our entire region. Earthquakes cannot be controlled by regulations with one hundred percent certainty.”

In all, geologists say there have been over 1,100 quakes in our area. That includes Youngstown’s famous 4.0 quake on New Year’s Eve in 2011.

For many of Frackfree’s members, that earthquake signifies when they became active in the fight against fracking and injection wells.

Since then, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) said it’s poured millions of dollars into making injection wells safer and reliable.