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Lawmakers, Gas Drilling Companies Meet About Earthquakes

State politicians quizzed experts in Youngstown Tuesday at a hearing on what might have caused eleven earthquakes in Mahoning County over as many months. The state is now monitoring reports of more earthquakes in another Ohio county to determine if there's any link to nearby brine injection wells there. The still-yet-to-be proved culprit in the Youngstown earthquakes is a well in which D&L Energy injected about 5,000 barrels of waste water a day, most of it from out of state. The briny water comes from controversial oil and gas extraction processes known as "fracking." Worried that the brine injection may be somehow linked to Youngstown’s rash of earthquakes, D&L Energy shut down the Northstar No. 1 well after a 4.0 quake on New Year’s Eve. Ohio Governor John Kasich said the state would also limit the depth of brine injection wells to 8,000 feet. The Northstar No. 1 well is 9,300 feet deep. At Tuesday’s hearing, Marietta College Geologist Bob Chase, said he was working with the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources to monitor recent quake activity in Southeastern Ohio’s Washington County. There have been four minor earthquakes there over the last year. "We are putting a seismometer on campus," Chase said. "It’ll give the geological survey a point for monitoring seismic activity in that area. I know they are looking to put a couple more in the state in the southeastern part because there are injection wells down there." Chase said there is no scientific proof linking Washington County’s earthquakes to brine injection wells. State records show that between July and Sept of 2011, Ohio injected about 3.4 million barrels of brine. That’s up 40 percent from the amount Ohio wells absorbed six months earlier. And over half of all the brine coming into Ohio is from drilling activity in other states.