Possible earthquake-fracking link outlined for Texas lawmakers

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by TODD UNGER

Bio | Email | Follow: @toddWFAA8

WFAA

Posted on May 12, 2014 at 10:19 PM

Updated Monday, May 12 at 10:20 PM

AUSTIN -- Texas lawmakers heard detailed testimony Monday about a possible link between fracking and an earthquake swarm that hit parts of North Texas this past winter.

The House Energy Resources Subcommittee on Seismic Activity heard from the mayors of both Azle and Reno, the two communities northwest of Fort Worth most impacted by the earthquakes.

Reno Mayor Lynda Stokes said in her remarks that the profit of oil companies shouldn't outdo the public good.

Just shy of 30 earthquakes of a 2.0 or higher magnitude hit the area between November and late February.

News 8 did a series of stories exploring a possible link to disposal well sites, where wastewater from fracking is pumped back into the ground.

The hearing comes as SMU released an update on its study of seismic activity in the area. The analysis says more than 300 small earthquakes have occurred in recent months. Some of the quakes originated within a mile of injection and disposal sites, according to the study.

State Representative Phil King said it's time the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, takes a lead in finding out the root cause of the quakes.

"I just want to make sure everyone gets into the same room and shuts the door if they need to and talks and gets through this," he said.

Commission staff testified that operators are only required to disclose yearly their injection volumes for disposal wells.

The commission recently fired off letters to seven operators of 13 disposal wells in the area asking for them to voluntarily disclose how much fracking fluid they are injecting back into the ground. The information could be critical to finding a correlation between the process and the earthquakes.

Dr. D. Craig Pearson, a seismologist recently hired by the commission in response to the earthquakes, said he hoped to know within "a year" what was behind the cluster.

On Friday, the EPA ironically announced plans to solicit public comment on enhanced regulations for fracking. Specifically, the agency is debating whether drillers should be forced to publicly disclose which chemicals they use in the fracking process.  

Some commonly used compounds, like benezene, have been linked to cancer. Some oil companies voluntarily disclose which fluids they use.

 

 

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