An allegation injection wells may contribute to earthquakes needs to be investigated scientifically and quickly. The question has enormous ramifications for the drilling industry and thus, for many states.
A few weeks ago a New York seismologist said he believed an injection well near Youngstown, Ohio, was linked to minor earthquakes in that area. Operations at that well were shut down and Gov. John Kasich ordered injection of drilling fluids be suspended throughout that area.
Injection wells have been in use in several regions of the United States for decades, however. To our knowledge there have been no credible reports linking such facilities with earthquakes. The credibility of the New York seismologist has been questioned. One criticism is that he never visited northeast Ohio to pursue on-the-ground research.
Still, Kasich was right to act as he did. Now, however, the ball needs to be in the federal government's court.
Obviously, if injection wells can cause earthquakes in Ohio, they can do so elsewhere. That makes the concern a federal one.
It also means federal agencies should look into the allegation.
Scientists should conduct thorough studies to determine whether there really is a link between injection wells and earthquakes. If a causal relationship is established, more research will be needed.
Injection wells are widely used to handle fluids used in hydraulic fracturing and other drilling operations. Uncertainty over the geologic effects of pumping large quantities of water, sand and chemicals underground will make it more difficult to produce oil and gas.
If federal agencies have not begun investigating the concern, they should do so immediately. If that requires a request from Kasich, he should make it.