Was Fracking To Blame For Monday's Shamrock Shake?

An earthquake isn't anything new in the Southland, but yesterday's 4.4 shaker has some environmentalists and local politicians wondering whether fracking might have played a role.

Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin introduced a motion today aiming for city officials to team up with the U.S. Geological Survey and other groups to look into whether fracking might have contributed to yesterday's Shamrock Shake, according to City News Service. Fracking is the common name for a process that involves drilling into underground rock and fracturing it to release natural gas. The process has been blamed for a number of earthquakes in places where they are uncommon, including Oklahoma, where a 5.7 quake caused major damage, according to Mother Jones.

Bonin and Koretz are looking at "active oil extraction activities," going on at the Veterans Administration grounds on the Westside, close to where the epicenter was, according to the motion. FracTracker Alliance told Mother Jones that the quake epicenter was eight miles from a disposal well. Another expert from Clean Water Action says that in other states, injection wells located 7.5 miles from a fault have been known to trigger seismic activity.

Monday's quake was centered on a fault that hadn't seen much recent activity, which surprised experts from the USGS. However, seismologists were skeptical about the theory that fracking triggered this temblor. USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said that though she would need to learn more about the pumping in the area before drawing conclusions, she told the Times that the theory seemed implausible: "My first impression is that sounds implausible just because the earthquake was so deep. Induced earthquakes are almost always shallower than this." Don Drysdale, spokesman for the state agency that oversees California Geological Survey, told Mother Jones that he thought the injection well wasn't close enough to be a trigger.

Last month the city moved toward barring fracking practices last month until they could be sure there was nothing to fear from it. Bonin and Koretz said they were worried about seismic concerns as well as how fracking could affect drinking water.

The oil industry flatly denied the suggestion that there could be any link between fracking and quakes. California Independent Petroleum Assn. CEO Rock Zierman told the Times that it had been proven that "there's no link between operations and seismic activity."