Injection wells a cause for concern

W e’re concerned that the state Department of Environmental Protection would approve two underground, frack water injection wells in the aftermath of evidence that these types of wells can cause seismic activity — earthquakes.

The DEP has approved the wells in Highland Township, Elk County, and Grant Township, Indiana County.

Clinton County is a boon for gas drillers, with thousands of acres in the Sproul State Forest leased for drilling north of Lock Haven. We’re not aware of any injection wells in Clinton County.

Underground injection of wastewater from oil and natural gas production has become controversial after a federal study in 2015 linked them to earthquakes in Kansas, Oklahoma and Ohio.

The DEP, however, says the applications for the wells by Seneca Resources Corp. in Elk County and Pennsylvania General Energy Company in Indiana County “meet all regulations, are sufficient to protect surface water and water supplies, and would abate pollution.”

DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell adds that, “due to concerns about seismic activity related to underground injection control wells that has occurred in other states, DEP has applied special conditions to the permit to ensure early detection if even minor seismic events occur.”

He says the wells will be monitored for seismic activity and the data will be shared with seismic detection networks in real time. Also, he said, the wells will be limited to lower pressures and in formations farther from “basement” rock that is more prone to activity, than the wells in other states that have been linked to earthquakes.

These would not be the first injection wells in Pennsylvania, but the first since the link to earthquakes was found.

We support the responsible development of natural gas wells to produce clean energy and wean our nation off of oil. But the evidence is clear: Injection wells can cause earthquakes and we don’t believe any lower injection pressure will make a difference.