Some Azle-area residents said they were disappointed with the Railroad Commission on Tuesday after they rode a chartered bus to Austin and packed a commission hearing to complain about earthquakes they believe are caused by natural gas production.
Their disappointment is understandable.They would rather have come away from the hearing with the three commissioners, who regulate oil and gas production all over the state, promising immediate action.
Many of the residents want the commission to shut down the disposal wells near their homes that inject millions of gallons of drilling waste deep underground.
They didn’t get that, but they shouldn’t be disheartened. They should focus instead on what they have accomplished in just three weeks.
They must know that if they are right and these disposal wells are causing or contributing to the swarm of quakes near their homes, action probably won’t come quickly. Since Jan. 2, these residents have:
• Crowded an Azle auditorium for a town hall meeting held by Railroad Commissioner David Porter, loudly voicing their concerns.
• Spurred Porter to take the important step of pushing the commission to hire a seismologist to help develop the agency’s knowledge of earthquake activity and any links to oil and gas production.
• Raised enough concern in the Legislature that the chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee named a four-member subcommittee to look into the sudden increase in seismic activity in Parker and Wise counties.
Even state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, a member of the new subcommittee and an industry supporter, called the temblors and their frequency “certainly a new phenomenon” and acknowledged that they have been “unnerving.”
None of those accomplishments are definitive for people who just want the quakes to stop. Still, along with the strong presentations at Tuesday’s Railroad Commission hearing, they are accomplishments.
Ultimately, the commission and the Legislature hold all the cards. Even then, the companies that own the disposal wells have state-issued permits that give them strong legal rights to continue operations.
The residents should make their case to the subcommittee that’s been named to hear from them. Persistent, reasoned arguments backed by science will be their only pathway to further progress.