Is Fracking to Blame for Earthquake That Struck LA?

Monday's quake was centered about 5 miles northwest of Westwood, near where active oil extraction activities have been reported, according to city officials

Was the earthquake that struck Los Angeles on Monday triggered by fracking?

Three Los Angeles City Council members Tuesday called on city staff to investigate whether oil and natural gas drilling methods like fracking caused the magnitude-4.4 temblor.

The staff would work directly with several regional, state and federal agencies to produce a report looking into whether a link exists between hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking,'' and the quake.

According to a motion Councilmen Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin, and seconded by
Councilman Bernard Parks, seismologists described the 6:26 a.m. earthquake as the strongest to "hit directly under the Santa Monica Mountains in the 80 years since seismic record-keeping began in the area."

"Coincidentally, now that we've had an earthquake that's about the size that seems to be happening in other states, it seemed like a time to focus on this more clearly," Koretz said. "There are states that historically have not had earthquakes, they've been getting earthquake swarms now that fracking has begun."

Fracking involves injecting a mixture of water and chemicals at high pressure into the ground to free up trapped natural gas and oil deposits.

U.S. Geological Survey officials said there has been a dramatic rise in recent years of "noticeable earthquakes" that exceed 3.0-magnitudes in the central and eastern U.S., according to the motion. The agency also found that some of the quakes happening in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Ohio were caused by activities related to fracking.

Monday's earthquake was centered about five miles northwest of Westwood, near where active oil extraction activities have been reported, according to the motion.

A group called the Fractracker Alliance said the epicenter of the quake was 8 miles from where a disposal well where fracking wastewater was injected at high pressure.

"We have enough trouble with earthquakes on the natural. If we're contributing to that, I think it's something that we need to quit doing pretty quickly," Koretz said."

However, Dr. Lucille Jones of the USGS said she does not see a connection between fracking and the earthquake, because the disposal well would have to be at least 6 miles deep. 

Strong shaking was reported throughout the region, and tremors in some areas continued for several seconds during what was the strongest quake in about five years to rattle Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles City Council last month ordered a halt to fracking, gravel packing, acidizing and other "unconventional" drilling and well-stimulation methods that some oil companies might be using in and around the city.

City attorneys are expected to prepare an ordinance within the next two months that would impose a moratorium on these drilling methods.

Los Angeles city staff will work with the USGS, California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and South Coast Air Quality Management District on the report.

Late last year, 20 of the nation's top scientists sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown urging him to place a moratorium on fracking. They said the practice increases pollution and runs counter to Brown's efforts to cut the state's emissions.

City News Service contributed to this report

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