A string of earthquakes have led Ohio officials to put a halt to controversial “fracking” operations that are scattered throughout the state. Fracking is the process of drilling deep into the earth to extract gas from shale, a fine grained sedimentary rock. The wells drilled into the earth are often filled with brine water in order to draw the gas to the surface. Some claim that the pressure from these water injections into the well is the cause behind the earthquakes.
Most of the quakes rocking the state have been 3.0 magnitude or lower. On December 31, however, a 4.0 quake rumbled just outside McDonald, Ohio. The quake caused no significant damage, according to the Department of Natural Resources, but the chain of events has insurers worried. While the department claims that the water injections are not causing the earthquakes, it has ordered Northstar Disposal Services to stop injecting brine water into the wells throughout the state while investigations on the matter are being conducted.
The quakes have not yet caused any significant damage to homes or businesses in Ohio, but few homeowners have earthquake insurance. This fact puts insurers on edge, as the risk of damage from earthquakes begins to climb. Insurers are also concerned with whether the fracking process is causing the quakes. If it is, then fracking would quickly become a major insurance issue in Ohio and several other states.