Is fracking causing earthquakes? That's what Glenn Beck wanted to find out after a series of minor earthquakes rattled his studios in Irving, Texas. When Beck took to the Internet, he quickly found that a new study in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society co-authored by Michael Brudzinski seemed to support the theory that fracking was to blame.
Brudzinski appeared on Beck's program Thursday, and said the reality is much more nuanced than many of the news articles reporting on his study suggest. Fracking does cause earthquakes, he said, but it appears to be in very limited circumstances.
"Our study shows, I think, a pretty definitive case where we could see that the earthquakes that took place in this part of eastern Ohio were very restricted in time, only during certain stages of the fracking operations," Brudzinski began. "And it's only the stages that were very close to what appears to be a pre-existing fault in the deep, old rock in that area."
Brudzinski said there were "hundreds of other stages of fracking that didn't produce earthquakes in that operation," and that is important to consider because "it means the situation where we get earthquakes from fracking is really when you get very close, within about a half mile, of where those faults are."
Beck said the media seems to be using the study as "ammunition" against fracking, leaving the public with the impression that "fracking causes earthquakes" with very little explanation of how or why. Brudzinski agreed, saying he would like to see more of an emphasis on how rare the earthquakes are.
"We've got tens of thousands of fracking operations that have not produced recordable earthquakes," he said. "[In Ohio], we wanted to spend some close attention to this, try to understand what happened in this case. And it appears to be just that the fracking got very close to a fault that pre-existed there."
But Beck noted that while his studios are very close to a fault line, there aren't any fracking operations for miles.
"People are looking at this, they're putting out better observatories to try and better understand where exactly these earthquakes are coming from in your area," Brudzinski said. "But it's not like there's prevalent fracking operations in your area that we could point to and say, 'those are suspicious.'"
Beck brought in a second expert, president of the Dallas Geological Society Mark Mathisen, who said there is a "distinct, major fault line that is right underneath Texas stadium" and though it's been dormant, "faults do get re-activated."
Mathisen said there need to be more studies on what is causing the earthquakes, and noted that some are already in progress and just need time to be completed.
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