Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a bill that will fund the deployment of additional sensors to study the location and source of earthquakes.
Abbott recently signed a bill to spend $4.47 million over the next two years for a new seismic monitoring program, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The program, to be overseen by the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas, will add 22 new permanent seismometers, which are instruments that measure motion in the ground. The U.S. Geological Survey already oversees 16 seismometers in the state.
State geologist and director of the bureau Scott Tinker said it also plans to buy 36 mobile seismometers that can be quickly deployed to gather data when a flurry of earthquakes occurs in rapid succession. Researchers are particularly interested in tremors larger than magnitude 3.0 that occur near urban areas or regions where human activity could be to blame.
Rep. Rafael Anchia, who authored the original legislation, said he doesn't know what's triggering the tremors, but hopes the new TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program can help draw some conclusions. He said residents are concerned about the earthquakes and simply want answers. His proposed bill later was folded into the state's supplemental budget.
A series of tremors has rattled North Texas, including a record 4.0 earthquake that struck Johnson County in May. The Texas Railroad Commission regulates oil and gas drilling in the state and found no evidence connecting the quake to wastewater injection wells.
The Railroad Commission's seismologist couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday, but the agency said it welcomes the new seismic monitoring program.
Tinker said some of the permanent seismometers could be installed within six months. He said the bureau has yet to determine where to place the instruments.