By April 24, 2015 Read More →

Railroad Commission hosts public hearing into Azle earthquakes

3.6 magnitude earthquakes were felt above ground, says Railroad Commission

The Texas Railroad Commission says it is taking steps to address concerns after a study published in science journal Nature Communications confirmed recent earthquakes near Azle were caused by waste water disposal wells.

Railroad Commission

Source: Causal factors for seismicity near Azle, Texas; Nature Communications.

RRC Commissioner Ryan Sitton Thursday directed Commission staff to work with seismic researchers at Southern Methodist University – authors of “Causal factors for seismicity near Azle, Texas” – to schedule a public meeting with local stakeholders. Scientists involved in the paper included a number of scientists from the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences at the Dallas-based university.

“In light of SMU’s study, I am calling for invited testimony from the Azle operators and SMU research team to present their respective research on this important issue at the Railroad Commission as soon as possible,” said Sitton, who noted that the hearing would help the Commission gain a better understanding of the Azle data and determine what measures, if any, should be taken.

“Since November 2013, certain areas of Texas have experienced elevated levels of seismic activity, and residents are concerned that this may be caused by oil and gas related activities,” said Sitton in a press release. “I appreciate SMU’s work on this issue and look forward to an engaging, thorough discussion that considers all scientific evidence available,”

The Commission has already held hearings in Azle and Austin, hired an in-house seismologist and adopted disposal well rule amendments that are designed to address disposal well operations in areas of historical or potential seismic activity, according to Sitton.

Railroad Commission

Ryan Sitton, Texas Railroad Commissioner.

The Commission is extending the invitation to scientists, seismologists and others who may have useful scientific data that will help the regulator understand the Azle earthquakes.

From early Nov. 2013 through Jan. 2014, the United States Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) reported 27 earthquakes near the cities of Azle and Reno, Texas, including two widely felt 3.6 magnitude events, the study reports.

“Regional geologic interpretations and historical accounts of regional seismicity independently suggest that natural tectonic stress changes represent an unlikely cause of the Azle earthquakes,” the study concluded. “The analysis therefore indicates subsurface stress changes associated with brine production and wastewater injection represents the most probable cause of recent earthquakes in the Azle area.”

“I want the public to know that the Commission is constantly monitoring the situation, and will consider any evidence and data that suggests possible causation between oil and gas activities and seismic events, so that we can take appropriate action if necessary,” he said.

Details of the hearing will be released upon confirmation from invited participants, said Sitton.

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