For more than a year, the earth beneath some North Texas communities — Reno, Azle and most recently Irving — has been shaking. And residents would like to know why.
Fortunately, there’s some indication that legislators in Austin would also like answers, and it appears they are willing to pony up some cash to find them.
In his nearly 1,000-page budget proposal, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has included a provision that would fund TexNet, a seismic monitoring program, to the tune of $2.5 million.
According to reporting by the Texas Tribune, TexNet, which would be run by the University of Texas at Austin, would help to detect and locate earthquakes with greater precision than current tools and would also improve the state’s ability to respond to quakes as needed.
Many North Texans have been frustrated by the state’s response to the temblors, particularly since they feel there is sufficient evidence to link them to wastewater disposal wells used in the hydraulic fracturing process. That’s a connection the state’s Railroad Commission, which oversees the oil and gas industry, has been unwilling to make outright.
The Commission’s seismologist, Craig Pearson, who came on board last spring, recently wrote of the Irving quakes in a Dallas Morning News column that “there is no evidence at this time to indicate any connection” to oil and gas activity in the area. The nearest active disposal wells to the latest tremors, he points out, are more than 10 miles away. But Pearson’s research is ongoing.
There’s reason to be skeptical that the Railroad Commission will concede any relationship between fracking and quakes in a state that has the oil and gas industry largely to thank for its recent economic success. Which is why it’s encouraging to see the Legislature also take an interest in getting to the bottom of the quake issue.
The next step is for legislators to pass a budget and make sure a provision to fund TexNet is included.