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December 12, 2013

RRC commish says there will be local quake discussion

Smitherman, now running for AG, says Railroad Commission is looking into subterranean rumblings

By CHRISTIN COYNE

The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry in Texas and has been asked by local officials to look into whether oil and gas activity may be behind the recent swarm of earthquakes in the Parker County area, may soon ask an outside entity to study the issue.

RRC Chairman Barry Smitherman, campaigning in Weatherford Thursday for the position of Texas Attorney General, told the Democrat he was aware of the recent earthquakes in the Parker County area.

Twenty-six earthquakes have shaken North Texas since Nov. 1, including 21 in the area of Azle and Reno and three north of Mineral Wells. The earthquakes have ranged in magnitude from 2.2 to 3.7, with the latest occurring Tuesday morning.

“We’ve asked our staff to take a look at that, and they’re embarking upon that right now,” Smitherman said. “I think what we’re going to do is in the near future we’re going to have a town hall meeting here and we’ll gather more evidence and have people share their experiences with us and then we’ll probably ask, say the University of Texas’ Bureau of Economic Geology or someone else qualified and experienced, to do a study of the issue.”

“But it is something we are aware of and want to take a good look at,” Smitherman said.

At the request of Parker County commissioners, Parker County Judge Mark Riley sent a letter last week to the RRC requesting the state look into any possible connection between the earthquakes and injection wells and provide the county and general public with any information they obtain.

Southern Methodist University in Dallas is also attempting to collect better data and study the issue. The university announced this week that they are placing a variety of seismic monitoring equipment from the U.S. Geological Survey and Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology and other sources around Azle and Reno to get a better handle on where the earthquakes are occurring.

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