Could fracking cause earthquakes?

Published On: Dec 24 2013 08:36:34 AM CST
Updated On: Oct 02 2013 10:56:00 PM CDT

Oct. 2, 2013: The man believes the seismic activity in his neighborhood is caused by fracking conducted by three oil and gas companies. Joel Eisenbaum reports.

ALVARADO, Texas -

One crack at a time, Ed Specht's home in the town of Alvarado, south of Fort Worth, is sinking, buckling, and collapsing.

"When we built it, it was supposed to be our dream home and retirement home and the dream is gone and the retirement is going to be out," Specht told Local 2.

In a recently filed lawsuit, Specht blames a series of earthquakes for his property predicament.

Specht lives on top of the Barnett Shale. He believes the seismic activity in his neighborhood is caused by fracking conducted by three oil and gas companies.

"You get a 3.5 a 3.7, you'll feel the whole house shake," he explained.

And his neighbors agree.

"You can hear it if you stand right here," one neighbor added.

Fracking is a gas and oil extraction method that uses explosives to fracture underground rock to get at the minerals. Several states, including New York, have banned fracking over environmental concerns. But in Texas, fracking is widespread, and widely accepted.

"There is recognition all the time that the value created overcomes all the time and it’s to the betterment of American society," explained John Hofmeister, the former President of Royal Dutch Shell.

Hofmeister contends restrictions on fracking in New York are unnecessary.

"That state of New York is being run by Yoko Ono right now," Hofmeister said, referring to Ono's public opposition to fracking.

Hofmeister hasn't personally examined Ed Specht's lawsuit, but he is skeptical of the merits.

"Has it been damaging or dangerous, no. No evidence it's been damaging or dangerous," Hofmeister said.

Using government geological data, Local 2 Investigates counted 14 wells thousands of feet under Ed Specht's neighborhood. At both ends of his block, there's clear evidence of natural gas extraction.

University of Houston Professor Donald Van Nieuwenhuise says fracking itself doesn't really cause earthquakes.

"If we're looking at the fracking process we're wasting time," Van Nieuwenhuise contends.

He says what should be studied, but hasn't in Specht's neighborhood, is another element of oil and gas operations.

"There is one weak point in the whole process and that is the process of disposing of wastewater," Van Nieuwenhuise explained.

Some research states, wastewater injected back into the earth is leading to more Texas earthquakes.

To Edward Specht that distinction makes no difference. But it may be significant to a judge or jury hearing his case.

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