Tags: cuomo | earthquakes

Pols Don't Let Facts on Fracking Stand in Way of Ignorance

Pols Don't Let Facts on Fracking Stand in Way of Ignorance
In 2012, people took part in a rally against hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, N.Y. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was running for a second term. Two years later, in December, Cuomo signed a hydraulic fracking moratorium. (Mike Groll/AP)

By Tuesday, 01 August 2017 10:46 AM Current | Bio | Archive

In December of 2014, the governor of New York took action to save the people of that state from a dire threat: earthquakes caused by fracking. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into force a moratorium on hydraulic fracking (fracturing). The moratorium listed seven reasons for the ban; one of those reasons being the potential triggering of earthquakes.

One should note however, that in New York's entire history, the number of people killed in earthquakes is the same death toll as fatalities suffered in extraterrestrial invasions, zombie apocalypses, and sasquatch attacks — zero.

Nonetheless, New Yorkers have paid a severe price for this useless protection.

Neighboring states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, have experienced a bonanza in jobs, development, and tax revenues thanks to embracing the energy independence wrought by extracting natural resources from beneath their own feet — rather than purchasing it from foreign adversaries, some of whom use the funds to purchase weapons used against the United States. Not the Empire State though. The trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and other hydrocarbon fuels lay untapped there, while 15 percent of New Yorkers live below the poverty line — 3 million on food stamps — and its population shrinks as people flee the area for jobs, reduced taxes and a lower cost of living elsewhere.

There might have been at least one benefit from New York’s formal connection between fracking and earthquakes. Indeed, this marks the first time in the history of the planet that earthquake prediction has been officially endorsed by any governmental entity, and then has also been strangely used  — immediately — to shut down an entire vital industry.

In truth, the governor got that part right. I was one of the first people on the planet to declare that fracking should be noted as an inducement to seismicity, in an op-ed published in the third largest newspaper in Missouri back in 2012. Yet, what the governor of seismically quiescent New York admits to be valid enough to support moratoriums, the governor of seismically explosive California can’t even be bothered to notice.

The upside-down result is that earthquake prediction is fact in New York, while in California they still call it fantasy. Perhaps there is more here than meets the eye since this is an indication that the laws of physics may actually vary according to time zones: seismic forecasting a reality on the east coast while remaining whimsy on the west coast .

But, how can one acknowledge seismic risks associated with fracking while simultaneously supporting it? The simple fact is that more than a few of humanity’s projects and undertakings can and do trigger earthquakes. Abolishing them would send us all straight back to the Stone Age. Forcing water and other liquids under pressure into the bedrock beneath seismic zones (as fracking does) is tantamount to pulling on a lion’s tail.

Water is an indisputable seismic lubricant. One should not be surprised if an earthquake is the consequence. Nevertheless, that is exactly what dams do as well; and far better and with much more devastating results.

Dozens of dams built all over the world have had their inaugurals punctuated with seismic fireworks: Hoover, Oroville, Kariba, Vajont, Malpasset, Hsinfengkiang, Kremasta, Koyna and many others.

The most striking evidence, however, comes from China. On May 8, 2008, 80,000 people were killed in a horrific 7.9 earthquake wracking Sichuan Province. The Zipingpu Dam had just been completed, built only 500 meters from a section of the fault line which failed, and a little over 5 kilometers from the killer quake’s epicenter.

Dams aren’t the only of mankind’s monumental earth-moving endeavors which may produce large tremors as an unforeseen and undesired repercussion. We can add mining to the list as well. The greatest natural disaster in Australian history, the 1989 Newcastle earthquake, was precipitated by human engineering expertise, specifically by coal mining activities near Boolaroo, New South Wales, the epicenter of the earthquake. So going down this road — no dams, no mines, no electricity, no fuels, no raw materials, no fracking —leads to nowhere.

In jurisdictions where fracking is banned — New York, Vermont, Maryland, some parts of New Mexico, etc. — there isn’t enough seismic energy to wring out of the ground to cause anything greater than the intermittent window-rattler, while it’s in full swing in the Monterey Field in California where the prospects for a sizeable earthquake are actually quite real.

All this should give Americans at least this comforting reassurance — the stunning ability of politicians to get almost everything backwards is alive, well, and thriving.

David Nabhan is a science writer, the author of "Earthquake Prediction: Dawn of the New Seismology" (2017) and three previous books on earthquakes. Nabhan is also a science fiction writer ("Pilots of Borealis," 2015) and the author of many scores of newspaper and magazine op-eds. Nabhan has been featured on television and talk radio all over the world. His website is www.earthquakepredictors.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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In December of 2014, the governor of New York took action to save the people of that state from earthquakes caused by fracking. In New York's entire history the number of people killed in earthquakes is, zero. The ability of politicians to get almost everything backwards thrives.
cuomo, earthquakes
Tuesday, 01 August 2017 10:46 AM
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