“On the other hand, as Ramon has described, the commission will seek and has sought to determine the source of the alleged pollution of surface or subsurface water and proscribe an appropriate remedy where it is feasible,” Fowler said, reminding attendees that even when a operator is found to have polluted water or violated conditions of their permit, the commission is required to give the operator due process, including providing a notice and requesting a hearing.
Smitherman asked staff to post information on the legal issues they can consider when approving disposal well applications to their website.
“We hear this every time we get one of these cases for a disposal permit and adjoining landowners want to express their concern about traffic and noise and dust,” Smitherman said. “And if we’re to take those into consideration, the law’s going to have to change. So perhaps people need to take a look at that and, if they feel like we should have a broader portfolio of things to look at, the Legislature meets again next January. A legislative subcommittee has been formed and these would be good ideas to take to them.”
Smitherman ended the meeting by expressing some skepticism that the disposal wells may be related to the recent earthquakes and referenced a 2012 National Academy of Sciences report.
“There are some interesting statements in here, one of which is that the author reports that the NAS committee found very few of them felt of induced seismic events as either caused by or related to disposal wells,” Smitherman said. “I want to dive into this report at some length and I urge people to take a look at it.”
“I’ve been collecting and reading a lot of academic reports over the last several weeks and I’m not a seismologist and for that reason, rather than reference those reports, at this point, I thought we might wait until we have somebody who can translate the reports,” Rister said. “I will say there’s a lot of academic information out there, all over the board, from earthquakes continuing after the DFW well was shut in, to reports linking seismic activity to disposal wells. So I just think we need somebody who can read those with the expertise needed to advise us on what we need to do in the future.”