Azle, Reno Residents Get Answers About Earthquakes

A public meeting and forum were held in Azle Wednesday to address concerns about earthquakes that have been reported in the area since November 2013.

The forum, which was sponsored by KERA and StateImpact Texas, included Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, a geophysics professor at Southern Methodist University and a representative of the oil and gas industry, took questions from audience members about the regulations on wastewater injection wells used in hydraulic fracturing.

Many residents believe the tremors are a direct result of the wastewater being pumped into the ground. Some residents have reported property damage related to the earthquakes.

On Tuesday, the Railroad Commission of Texas released the pressure readings and volumes of the wells provided by seven oil and gas operators in the area.

Scientists will use that data to help them determine whether there is a direct link between the injection wells and earthquakes.

On Wednesday, Heather DeShon, SMU associate professor of geophysics, told attendees that the earthquakes in the area are 2 to 8 kilometers below ground, while the injection wells extend 2 to 3 kilometers below ground.

Attendees cheered at the information that appeared to link the earthquakes to the wastewater injection sites.

However, the research will not be complete, reviewed and published for another six to 18 months.

Once the research is published, and if it directly pinpoints the fracking wastewater disposal as the cause of the earthquakes, the panel told the attendees that lawmakers and industry experts will be able to amend procedures and regulations.

They will then decide whether the oil and gas companies should be required to pay for any repairs to property damage.

"We know there is a human factor," said Bill Stevens, government relations consultant for the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. "We believe there are good guidelines at the Railroad Commission. They have the jurisdiction to control disposal wells, but they can't shut it down, if it is in fact, causing the earthquakes."

An industry expert told the crowd that companies are exploring wastewater recycling options. 

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