You all remember Lex Luthor’s scheme in the original Richard Donner Superman movie, right? Of course you do, you’re all nerds. But we nerds are all pedantic and love to start monologuing, so I’ll tell you what it was anyway.
Luthor was going to set off a nuclear bomb in the San Andreas fault and cause a giant earthquake so that California would slide into the sea, creating new, valuable ocean front real estate that he would buy up, making himself fabulously rich.
Grand plans to cause devastating earthquakes are staples of cheesy comic book villainy; they’re also a regular part of the diet of conspiracy theorists. Did you know the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is actually a scheme by the Illuminati/Men in Black/New World Order to take over the world by inducing earthquakes? It’s true. Bad guys cause earthquakes.
So what should we make of the recent disclosure that fracking causes earthquakes?
Before January 2011, Youngstown, Ohio, had never had an earthquake since observations began in 1776. In December 2010, the Northstar 1 injection well came online, built to pump wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing projects in Pennsylvania into storage deep underground. In the year that followed, seismometers in and around Youngstown recorded 109 earthquakes—the strongest of the set being a magnitude 3.9 earthquake on December 31, 2011.
In a new study analyzing the Youngstown earthquakes, Kim finds that the earthquakes’ onset, cessation, and even temporary dips in activity were all tied to the activity at the Northstar 1 well. The first earthquake recorded in the city occurred 13 days after pumping began, and the tremors ceased shortly after the Ohio Department of Natural Resources shut down the well in December 2011. Also, the author finds that dips in earthquake activity correlated with Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving, as well as other periods when the injection at the well was temporarily stopped.
Further, the author finds that the earthquakes were centered in an ancient fault near the Northstar 1 well. The author suggests that the increase in pressure from the deep wastewater injection caused the existing fault to slip. Throughout the year, the earthquakes crept from east to west down the length of the fault away from the well—indicative of the earthquakes being caused by a traveling pressure front.
Comic book supervillains aren’t real. We’ve got the oil companies instead.