Angry Azle crowd disappointed by lack of answers regarding quakes

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 11:27 PM

AZLE -- The booing started just minutes into the meeting.

When the Railroad Commission of Texas announced they came to Azle only to listen, not answer any questions, the crowd erupted.

Booing and cheering was common during the town hall, which started 15 minutes late as more than 800 people squeezed into the Azle High School auditorium.

"We're on a tight timeframe, and we're keeping it to comments only," the moderator said, to which the crowd angrily responded.

Railroad Commissioner David Porter told the crowd despite what they read and hear, the commission "is concerned and is involved."

"We have to take our actions based on science and facts, not speculation that appears in newspaper articles and blogs," he said.

He told the crowd he was on a tight schedule, with early meetings in Austin and that he was sure people wanted to get home to watch the Sugar Bowl. Those were the reasons he gave for not being able to answer questions and listen to every concerned citizen.

And those citizens were not happy.

"It may not be taken care of after this meeting, but maybe if the earth shakes down in Austin, we'll get some results," one man said.

More than 30 earthquakes have been felt near Azle in the last few months. Longtime residents said they'd never felt the ground shake until gas drilling injection wells appeared in their town.

"It seems to me the only way to figure out for sure if the injection wells are the problem is to shut them down and see if the earthquakes stop," one woman said, getting a loud round of applause from the audience.

People described foundation problems and cracked walls and bricks.

"It feels like a semi truck hitting your house with a bomb going off," one man said. "I'm serious."

Frustration could be clearly felt, perhaps more from Azle resident Melanie Williams than anyone else.

"I have had to move out of my home. I pay a mortgage, rent, utilities, in two places," she said.

She said foundation problems have led to major leaks. She is a Hurricane Katrina survivor who relocated to Azle in search of stability. She's not finidng it, she said.

From the microphone, she asked multiple times for help. And when she was asked to move, she refused.

"I'm not leaivng this microphone until somebody lets me know who to contact," she said.

And she wouldn't budge.

Eventually, a commission employee said he had her cell number from the paper she signed allowing her to speak. He promised to call her Friday.

"Be a man of your word," she later said. She said she'd call him, if he didn't call her first.

As the meeting ended, Porter left out a back door. DPS troopers and other commission members physically held back reporters, who tried to get the elected commissioner to answer questions.

Eventually, Executive Director Milton Rister briefly spoke.

"I don't have a plan of action tonight," he said. "First thing was to listen to what the people of Azle are saying. We heard very loud and clear they're concerned."

Many residents left well before the meeting was over because they felt they were not really being heard.

"I don't feel real good about this," said Azle Mayor Alan Brundrett. "The only thing that makes me feel a little good is they actually came here.

"I'm not gonna go away," he said, "and I'm not gonna let up."

Williams promises she isn't either.

"Nobody wants to give answers; just want us to go away. Well, we're not going to keep going away. Because, in the long term, our lives are being destroyed and you have steak and potatoes on your table at night," she said. "I don't have a table to sit at right now with my family."

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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