On Monday at 11:27 a.m., a 2.6 magnitude earthquake rattled to the surface from 2.5 miles under the earth 5 miles north-east of Greeley. It’s roughly the same spot that generated a 3.4 magnitude quake on May 31st and that fueled speculation that waste-fluid injection wells tied to the oil-and-gas drilling process known as fracking were bringing quakes to the region.
Greeley is in the heart of the northern Front Range gas patch, where the politics of fracking have heated up, pitting residents and environmental groups against the drilling industry and most political leaders, who for years have seemed unwilling or powerless to address resident concerns in a way that might quell growing public concern and frustration.
Five cities in the region have passed bans or moratoriums on fracking, arguing that the boom-time practice has overrun their towns and raced ahead of research on any possible longterm health and safety risks. Today, residents are voting on a moratorium in Loveland, another of the region’s small cities.
Fracking, or hydraulic facturing, is the process where drillers poke wells vertically and horizontally into the earth and then blast millions of gallons of a water-sand-chemical mixture down into them to break up rock and bring oil and gas to the surface. But the fracking fluid comes back to the surface too, laden with toxins and low-level radiation. Drillers partly dispose of that fluid by shooting it into injection wells drilled miles below the surface.
As the Colorado Independent reported after the May 31st quake, geologists have long noted that injection wells generate temblors. There are more than 150,000 injection wells that hold hundreds of billions of fracking wastewater in the United States. The location of the wells in states like Oklahoma and Ohio correspond to earthquake activity.
The Tribune reported that the epicenter of the June 2nd Greeley quake was located a mile and a half from “two oil and gas wastewater injection wells that have not been inspected by the state since August 2012.” The Tribune reported that the wells are operated by Denver-based High Sierra Water Services.
A “Current Worldwide Earthquake List” and map posted online at the U.S. Geological Survey website shows the location of Monday’s quake in Greeley and provides basic information. It also shows a small cluster of three recent quakes that rattled heavily drilled Oklahoma.
Correction: An earlier version of this post reported that an earthquake hit the Greeley area on June 2nd. It hit May 31st. The dates have been corrected above.