Weatherford Democrat

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February 6, 2014

Steps to hiring state seismologist begin

(MCT) – Texas officials have begun interviewing candidates for the position of state seismologist, Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter said Wednesday.

Porter, testifying before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, was asked by Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, about residents’ concerns about a string of earthquakes around Azle that started in November. The Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry in Texas, on Jan. 14 announced its intention to create the new position.

“We have moved to hire a seismologist on the railroad commission. In fact, I believe interviews for that seismologist are starting today,” Porter replied.

“We’re trying to gain a clear understanding of exactly what’s happening and what kind of activity, if any, we need to do at the commission.”

Railroad commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye said the agency is still accepting applications for the post.

On Jan. 2, Porter held a public meeting that drew approximately 850 people at Azle High School where residents described their experiences with more than 30 quakes, most of which have been relatively small. Many told of shaking and damage to their homes.

Southern Methodist University researchers have installed a number of seismic monitoring stations in the area between Azle and the community of Reno to the northwest, but have not released any results yet. The most recent quake in the area came Jan. 29, although a small quake was also reported Sunday near Benbrook.

There are several injection wells in the Azle area that are used to dispose of wastewater from natural gas wells in the Barnett Shale. Injection wells have been linked to seismic activity by researchers in several states.

At a Jan. 21 hearing in Austin, the railroad commission said the agency inspected several injection wells in the Azle area to make sure all were in compliance with permits governing how much fluid is injected and at what pressure. One had a problem and was being repaired.

Porter’s comments on Wednesday came during a hearing titled “Examining the Science of EPA Overreach: A Case Study in Texas.” That committee is chaired by Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio.

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