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January 12, 2014

Quakes raise injection well concerns

Monday meeting in Azle called by group seeking more oversight, regulation of oil, gas industry

By CHRISTIN COYNE

As groups calling for more restrictions on oil and gas activity in the Barnett Shale plan a meeting with Azle-area residents regarding the recent swarm of earthquakes in northeastern Parker County, it’s not clear when state-hired scientists will begin studying the issue.

“The search will last as long as it takes to find a qualified candidate,” Ramona Nye, spokeswoman for the Texas Railroad Commission, told the Democrat on Wednesday of Commissioner David Porter’s proposal to create an in-house seismologist position.

The person hired will be expected to coordinate with other experts and evaluate seismic activity associated with known faults and/or oil and gas activity, according to the commission.

A week ago, Porter faced an angry group of more than 800 Azle-area residents frustrated with the lack of information from the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry. 

Many in the crowd expressed a belief that local injection wells are responsible for the two dozen quakes originating between Reno and Briar that have caused damage to area homes and buildings. They called for the commission to take action to protect their property.

In an effort to narrow down the area of origin of the Azle-area quakes, researchers with the USGS and Southern Methodist University are still attempting to obtain additional seismic data with the help of additional monitoring equipment placed in the area. They have not determined whether the local quakes may have been triggered by human activity.

However, studies in Texas and other areas of the nation have indicated a possible connection between earthquakes and wastewater injection wells in some areas.

“USGS scientists have found that at some locations the increase in seismicity coincides with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells,” a publication by the USGS published in July states. More than 300 earthquakes above a magnitude 3.0 occurred in the central and eastern U.S. between 2010 and 2012, compared with an average rate of 21 events per year observed between 1967 and 2000, researchers noted.

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