Editorials

Regulator sees possible oil and gas tie to quakes

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton
Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton Courtesy

Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton has come close to connecting the oil and gas industry with some of the small earthquakes in parts of the state since drilling and fracking intensified in 2008.

He didn’t actually accuse anyone of anything, but he stepped cautiously in that direction.

Remember that the Railroad Commission, with three members elected statewide, no longer has anything to do with railroads. But it is vastly important because it regulates the Texas oil and gas industry.

Commissioners have been reluctant to draw specific connections between Texas earthquakes and the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that takes place during most well completions these days or the injection wells that dispose of millions of gallons of wastewater from those activities.

In announcing on Tuesday his “collaboration” with a Bureau of Economic Geology study of “induced seismicity” earthquakes, Sitton said, “The science is clear that it is physically possible for injection wells that dispose of fluids deep underground to cause earthquakes in certain rare cases, given the right set of conditions.”

He added: “I have determined that we need to begin to look more closely at oil and gas injection activities in specific areas. One such area is Johnson County. I have seen credible data and science from operators that lead me to believe that area has elevated risks of seismicity related to disposal activities, and therefore warrants additional investigation.”

Investigation is good. Glad to have Sitton on board.

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