Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” - the controversial process by which natural resources are extricated from rock - caused two earthquakes in England earlier this year, according to a report today.
Cuadrilla Resources, in conjunction with independent researchers, found that two low magnitude earthquakes near Blackpool, England in April and May were caused by fracking.
"It is highly probable that the hydraulic fracturing of Cuadrilla's Preese Hall-1 well did trigger a number of minor seismic events," the company’s report said.
The risk of more tremors is low, it said.
Fracking is the process of using a hydraulic drill to blast rock, usually shale, with pressurized liquid in order to release natural gas, petroleum and other resources. Rigs drill thousands of feet into the ground and tap into natural resources that have been untouched for thousands of years.
Recently, the process has come under fire from environmental groups who contend fracking leads to the contamination of drinking water, disruption of ecosystems, usage of harmful chemicals and, now, earthquakes.
Colin Eastman, who joined a protest at the rig, told The Guardian, "Conventional fossil fuels have begun to run out and the system is moving towards more extreme forms of energy like fracking, tar sands and deep water drilling.”
The confirmation that fracking caused earthquakes is adding to concerns in the U.S., who now leads the world in gas production, thanks to fracking. The process is currently performed in 36 states.
Most U.S. energy companies maintain that fracking has minimal environmental impact.
Aubrey McClendon, chief executive officer of Chesapeake Energy, told CBS News, "Even the allegations of ground water contamination, you can count on one or two hands. The actual incidents we think are-are zero."
Reports of environmental effects from around the country usually reference water contamination. Rock, gas, sand and other resources have ended up in water wells. For some, significant levels of methane have been found in wells, and one such well exploded.
The Environmental Protection Agency elected to not impose regulations on fracking after a 2004 report claimed that the process had minimal environmental side effects. Fracking then became exempt from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Critics say the 2004 study came before any publicized reports of water contamination and focused only on specific parts of the drilling process.
Natural gas production has increased 48 percent annually since 2006.