As previously reported in Fulbright’s Fracking Blog post, “Injection Wells and Their Possible Link to Seismic Activity,” earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio–including a 4.0 New Year’s Day quake–sparked national interest in early 2012.

The underground injection of fluids in Class II deep disposal wells, not oil and gas drilling or the hydraulic fracturing production process, were speculated to have caused the earthquakes.

On March 9, 2012, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (“ODNR”) released a preliminary report regarding the relationship between recent earthquakes in the Youngstown, Ohio area and the Northstar 1 Class II disposal well.

According to the report, a “number of coincidental circumstances appear to make a compelling argument” that the earthquakes around Youngstown were induced.

The report indicates that evidence gathered by state officials suggest that fluid from the Northstar 1 disposal well “intersected an unmapped fault in a near-failure state of stress causing movement along that fault.” ODNR News Release, Mar. 9, 2012.

However, the report does not definitively conclude that the Northstar 1 disposal well caused the Ohio earthquakes.

Rather, the ODNR plans to conduct further analysis and detailed modeling of the disposal well and the surrounding geology to establish a better understanding of what may have induced the seismic activity.

Concurrent with the issuance of the preliminary report, the ODNR issued new regulatory standards for the transportation and disposal of brine generated from oil and gas activities.

In addition, the ODNR has started the process of identifying a third party expert with experience in seismicity, induced seismicity and Class II injection wells to conduct an independent review of all available technical information.


This article was prepared by Heather M. Corken (hcorken@fulbright.com or 713 651 8386) and Kristen Roche (kroche@fulbright.com or 713 651 5303) from Fulbright’s Environmental Law Practice Group.