'Lightly felt' earthquake reported in Alberta fracking zone

FOX CREEK, Alta. -- The federal government reported an earthquake Tuesday in an area of northwestern Alberta where fracking for energy development is common.

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Natural Resources Canada says the earthquake was "lightly felt" this morning in Fox Creek. No damage has been reported.

The earthquake registered 4.5 on the Richter scale at about 11:30 Tuesday morning, which would make it the strongest quake reported to the Alberta Energy Regulator in a year.

According to the Richter Scale, quakes of that magnitude are considered "light." They're likely to be felt by most people in the area and may cause noticeable shaking and rattling of indoor objects.

The regulator's website says a quake of that intensity is strong enough to require the responsible energy company to stop fracking.

Concerns about seismic activity in the Fox Creek area began in December 2014, when a series of 18 earthquakes between 2.7 and 3.7 in magnitude rumbled the area. In January 2015, several events were recorded between magnitudes of 2.4 and 4.4.

The regulator responded in February by imposing a new set of rules for the so-called Duvernay play near the town.

"The order comes after several seismic events -- possibly related to hydraulic fracturing -- were recorded in the Fox Creek area," the regulator said in a press release at the time.

Before starting to frack, companies must consider the likelihood of resulting earthquakes.

Any seismic events great than four on the Richter scale require the operator to shut down and notify the regulator. Quakes between two and four in intensity only require the operator to inform the regulator and no activity is required for events smaller than two on the scale.

The new rules also require closer monitoring of seismic activity.

The regulator's database shows there have been 366 seismic events in the region since January 2015.


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