Holy Fracking Earthquake

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report on April 23, 2015 outlining evidence of “sharply increased” seismic activity due to human activity – “fracking” to be precise.
DEFINITION of ‘Fracking’

A slang term for hydraulic fracturing. Fracking refers to the procedure of creating fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open. The larger fissures allow more oil and gas to flow out of the formation and into the wellbore, from where it can be extracted.

Slick assertions by fracking advocates, paint rosy pictures of harmless and inconsequential necessity. Common sense dictates otherwise. Last year Oklahoma had more magnitude 3 or greater earthquakes than California. Oklahoma, by far the banner state for “human” triggered seismic activity, went from an average of 1.5 shakes per year in 2009 to 2.5 a day in 2014.

Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado and Ohio all reported increased seismic activity associated with industrial activity – translation, fracking.

Contained in the USGS official announcement…

“Earthquake activity has sharply increased since 2009 in the central and eastern United States. The increase has been linked to industrial operations that dispose of wastewater by injecting it into deep wells”

Fracking involves more than increased seismic activity – much more than an estimated 72 trillion gallons of water a year. Ponder 360 billion gallons of chemicals – formaldehyde, methanol, hydrochloric acid to name a few. Roughly half of this chemical sludge is recovered, taken by tanker or pumped into open pit pools to evaporate. Final “disposal” requires nothing more than a burial – groundwater, wells, agriculture of little consequence.

An article posted last September on conservative website American Thinker made me laugh. The headline – “The Science Is Settled:Fracking Is Safe” illustrates the sorry state of right wing wisdom. The first paragraph, managed in a few short sentences to take a jab at climate change, declare fracking safe, followed by “end of discussion”. Citing the National Science Foundation, Duke University and “others”, the article stated extensive research examined 130 wells, concluding that only a “subset of cases” – 7 wells in Pennsylvania and 1 in Texas (faulty construction or cement) polluted groundwater. There are over 500,000 wells in America – using the ratio of 7/130, that’s over 26,000 environmental disasters. The rest of the article just made me mad – linked below if you can stomach nonsense about how over 1 million frackings resulted in an infinitesimal 7 screw ups – they “examined” 130 wells, holy crap.


If the world was perfect, each and every one of these nincompoops would be forced to live in a community beside a fracking site.




Mount St. Helens Rising?

May 18, 1980 – a postcard spring morning. Getting ready for work and listening to relentless chatter of birds, I hurried so I could take the long way to work and enjoy a few extra minutes outside. Just before 8:30 I closed the patio door and sensed something out of place. It took a few seconds to register – it was silent, completely and utterly quite, not a chirp or flutter. It was as if the birds had vanished. A few hours later I heard Mount St. Helens had erupted at 8;32 am.

I can’t say I heard the “boom” or felt tremors from the largest volcanic eruption in American history. Scores of local residents reported hearing the shock wave despite a distance of over 500 Km. All I know for a fact is that bird activity came to a stand still just before eruption.

Fifty seven people perished,  the largest land slide in recorded history buried rivers, roads and train tracks to a depth of 600 feet. When all was said and done – St. Helens lost 1,300 feet in elevation, and devastated an area of 200 square miles. Ash rose 12 miles upwards, darkening skies and causing street lights to come on 300 miles away in Spokane Washington.

Last week the Cascades Volcanic Observatory released reports of St. Helens stirring, specifically indications of magma re-pressurization. Increased uplift and seismic activity remind us it will happen again. The information bulletin wasn’t a warning of immediate danger – an eruption isn’t expected anytime soon.

On clear days we can see Mt. Baker in Washington State, sometimes puffs of smoke rise from the ice covered peak. Mt. Rainier hasn’t erupted for 500 years and is considered as active as Baker or St. Helens. The “ring of fire” surrounding the Pacific Ocean basin accounts for most of the world’s seismic activity, boasting 452 volcanoes and 75% of Earth’s volcanic eruptions.

Photo – Cascades Volcanic Observatory – St. Helens eruption

Impossible to predict or prevent all we can do is prepare. Waiting until the birds fall silent doesn’t make a lot of sense.



Italian Earthquake Justice?

On April 6, 2009 a magnitude 6.9 earthquake destroyed the city of L’Aquila Italy. Striking at 3:32 AM most people were asleep. Hundreds were injured, 309 were killed, 65,000 buildings were damaged or reduced to rubble. For months leading up to this night low level tremors had plagued the region. On March 31, 2009 a meeting of the Great Risks Commission was called to discuss the growing number of tremors. Seven scientists in attendance went on record saying, historically the region was prone to seismic activity, there was no way to predict the “big one”, consequently no evacuation order was issued.

After the tragedy, it was on these points that prosecutors charged the 7 with manslaughter. Today Italian courts found them guilty. They were  sentenced to 6 years in prison, and banned for life from ever holding a government position.

They will of course appeal the decision.  The scientists had no crystal ball, there is no way to predict an earthquake  and ultimately the decision was not theirs. I suppose in hindsight the officials could have erred on the side of caution. To single them out and successfully convict them of manslaughter is mind boggling.


People walk past collapsed buildings near L'Aquila, Italy in after an deadly earthquake in April 2009. Seven scientists were found guilty of manslaughter Monday for failing to sufficiently warn residents of the quake.

Photo – Alessandra Tarantino AP