January 8, 2014

Drilling critics to host public meeting in Azle on earthquakes

Earthworks and the North Central Texas Communities Alliance will present information at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Azle Community Center, 404 W. Main St.

Critics of hydraulic fracturing who say state officials failed to provide answers about earthquakes to residents at last week’s public meeting in Azle will hold their own information session Monday.

The Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project, the North Central Texas Communities Alliance and former Dish Mayor Calvin Tillman will present information at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Azle Community Center, 404 W. Main St.

Organizers said the format of the Jan. 2 meeting, which drew more than 800 residents, and previous actions show that Texas Railroad Commission officials “are not interested in overseeing the oil and gas industry so much as providing political cover for it.” They said their meeting next week will work to “find out how to force our ‘regulators’ to do their jobs and protect our property and communities.”

Railroad Commissioner David Porter sponsored last week’s meeting at Azle High School. Agency officials heard a litany of complaints of property damage and disruption but provided no additional answers or information about the quakes. The Azle area experienced about 30 small earthquakes in November and December.

On Tuesday, railroad commissioners approved adding a seismologist to the agency’s staff to investigate links between energy production and seismic events.

A number of studies by researchers and regulators have established what they describe as plausible links between wastewater disposal wells and seismic events. Among those is a 2010 report by researchers at Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Austin who studied earthquakes near Dallas/Fort Worth Airport in 2008. It concluded that a recently installed wastewater disposal well likely affected a fault running through the area.

Researchers say that perhaps the most rigorous look at injection wells and seismic events is a 1966 study of a disposal well at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal near Denver. There, researchers could trigger quakes by controlling the injection rates into the well.

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