The link between hydraulic fracturing activity and seismic activity has been the subject of much discussion of late, including on this blog (see "USGS Study Concludes Increased Seismicity May Be Attributable to Hydraulic Fracturing," posted on April 4, 2012). Ohio has put in place new rules for deep-well injection disposal of used fracing water, in an attempt to avoid the small earthquakes that occurred in Youngstown last Fall. New York is now weighing in on the issue. State Senator Tony Avella recently introduced a bill that would require a seismological impact study related to hydrofracking to be performed by a state university. Sen. Avella’s bill would require that the study consider potential seismic effects both locally and state-wide; that it recommend activities or practices to mitigate future seismic activity; and that it provide a plan to monitor for seismic activity in the future.
The bill proposes to fund the study through appropriations from the general budget, which was the death-knell for a similar piece of legislation introduced earlier this year that would have funded a state university study of fracing’s health effects. Given New York’s tight fiscal environment, and the fact that federal studies of a possible fracing-earthquake link are already underway, we expect this bill to meet the same fate as the health study. Sen. Avella, fully aware of the fate of the heath study bill (which he sponsored) likely is making a political statement with this latest legislation. Nevertheless, stakeholders need to be aware that the earthquake-fracing link is one that is catching increased attention from federal and state authorities, and likely will remain an issue for some time.