YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - About 500 residents living near an oil and gas wastewater well that a seismologist has linked to a series of earthquakes responded Wednesday to presentations from Ohio state regulators with both boos and cheers.
In a state investigation into a series of quakes in northeast Ohio, Columbia University seismologist John Armbruster has said that the injection of thousands of gallons of brine wastewater daily into an injection well at Youngstown almost certainly caused the quakes.
His finding intensified the debate over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, used to extract natural gas from underground shale, although the Youngstown well takes wastewater from all sorts of drilling in the oil and gas industry and the injection well differs from a drilling well in which fracking could be employed.
Citizens respond to speakers during a forum to discuss recent seismic activity possibly related to deep wastewater injection wells in Youngstown, Ohio, Wednesday.
Wednesday, Dan Mincks of Boardman stood patiently through state presentations with his 8-month-old daughter, Lily, in his arms. On New Year's Eve, his wife Julie was changing Lily's diaper when she felt a 4.0 magnitude earthquake rock the ground.
"I actually thought a car hit the house, or she fell," Mincks said, pointing to his daughter.
Mincks said he sees the shale drilling boon that's come to Ohio as a good thing for the ailing economy.
"Me personally, I think it's good for the jobs to come to the area because we do need the jobs and the work," he said. "I just hope there's some alternative to fracking they can find for getting to it without harming our environment and scenery and groundwater."
Julie Mincks, who grew up in the area, said construction of a drilling access road is just being completed on her mother's Columbiana County farm.
"I think it's good for the area as long as it's closely monitored," she said.
After the New Year's quake, Gov. John Kasich ordered a moratorium on wastewater injection wells within a five-mile radius of the Youngstown well. The quake brought the total to 11 for the area in 2011.
The moratorium applies to the injection well, although it had already been shuttered after a previous quake, and to four already-inactive wells.
Kasich, a first-term Republican, has tried to distance the injection well process from natural gas drilling and fracking. His administration has emphasized that 176 other injection wells have been operating in Ohio since the mid-1980s without any notable seismic activity.
The energy company whose affiliate Northstar Disposal Services LLC operates the Youngstown well plans its own geologic study. D&L Energy Group has said the company plans to share its review with state regulators in hopes of getting the well reopened.
Rep. Robert Hagan, a local Democrat, organized the Wednesday meeting. Ohio Department of Natural Resources experts were joined by an academic, environmentalist, and a representative of the oil and gas drilling industry.
Armbruster, of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., said injection wells have also been suspected in quakes in Astabula in far northeast Ohio, and in Arkansas, Colorado and Oklahoma.