American College of Environmental Lawyers Guest Article: Texas Railroad Commission on Track to Address Quakes

08/29/2014

Over 30 earthquakes jolted the area in and around the City of Azle, Texas —20 miles north of Fort Worth—last November through January. In response to citizen concerns, the Texas House Committee on Energy Resources created a Subcommittee on Seismic Activity, to investigate whether there was a link between earthquakes and increased oil and gas production and disposal wells. In addition, the Railroad Commission of Texas—the agency with jurisdiction over oil and gas activities in Texas--hired a state seismologist and, on August 12, approved a draft of proposed rules that would require companies to do a seismic survey before obtaining permits for new oil and gas disposal wells—so-called Class II injection wells. Representatives of both the Texas oil and gas industry and environmental groups are supportive of this proposal.

Texas, in particular, has been part of the tremendous increase in oil and gas exploration and production activity nationwide through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Although “fracking” per se does not appear to result in quakes, there is a concern that related disposal well injection might. The Railroad Commission proposal is intended to address this concern. Some have suggested the Texas proposal could be a model for other states.

Excerpted from the American College of Environmental Lawyers, August 29, 2014. To view full article, click here.

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