Read the report here.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Government and industry need to conduct more research and come up with "best practices" to address the potential for earthquakes associated with the nation's natural gas drilling boom, a major federal study reported Friday.
The National Research Council said the practice of hydraulic fracturing to release gas reserves is, by itself, not a major risk for triggering "seismic events" large enough for humans to feel.
Of greater concern, the council said, is underground injection of wastewater from the increased drilling in formations such as the Marcellus Shale and the proposed injection deep underground of carbon dioxide emitted by coal-fired power plants.
Still, seismic events traced to various energy production activities -- from Marcellus drilling to coal mining -- amounted to only 154 worldwide during the past century, compared to a global average of about 14,450 earthquakes every year, the report said.
Because of the timing, though, Friday's report did not consider more recent peer-reviewed science, especially an April paper by a U.S. Geological Survey expert who said he found a "remarkable increase" in the rate of earthquakes. USGS seismologist William Ellsworth said these changes were "almost certainly manmade" and linked to "either changes in extraction methodologies or the rate of oil and gas production."
In West Virginia, industry officials and state regulators have dismissed any connection between the gas-drilling boom and a string of small earthquakes recorded in Braxton County in 2010. Citizen groups in that area, and other parts of the state impacted by the Marcellus rush, have included potential quakes among their lists of concerns.
The new report was written by a panel of experts appointed by the National Research Council, which is part of the National Academy of Science, a nonprofit that provides scientific advice to the government.