State Regulators Sit Idle as Quakes Rock North Texas

USGSEarthquakes30Days.jpg
A USGS map showing the 17 earthquakes that measured 2.5 on the Richter scale and above in the past 30 days.
So far, none of the two dozen earthquakes recorded in North Texas since the start of November have caused any serious damage. The Eagle Mountain Lake Dam is fine. Homes and businesses are intact, save for the occasional hairline crack. No one has been hurt.

There's no guarantee that won't change as the quakes, centered near the Parker County town of Azle, creep toward 4.0 on the Richter scale, the magnitude at which seismic activity can start causing damage. The most recent quake, which happened just after midnight on Sunday, registered a 3.6. At 3:23 a.m. Monday, a 3.7 shook Mineral Wells.

The earthquakes aren't directly related to hydraulic fracturing, the process of releasing oil and natural gas from rock formations by blasting them with a pressurized liquid. But they probably are caused by injecting the resulting wastewater -- nine billion gallons per month in Texas -- deep underground.

See also: Whistleblower Lawsuit Supports Our Worst Suspicions About How the Railroad Commission Regulates Oil and Gas

That's what the science, preliminary though it may be, suggests, and what the average lay person would conclude by the quakes' proximity in time and place to fracking disposal wells in the Barnett Shale. The USGS has reached the conclusion quakes and disposal wells are probably linked.

The Texas Railroad Commission, the state's notoriously spineless oil and gas regulator, begs to differ.

"Texas has a long history of safe injection, and staff has not identified a significant correlation between faulting and injection practices," according to the agency's website.

See also: Connection Between Quakes and Underground Frack-water Disposal Looks Solid

It's not clear what burden of proof is required before the RRC begins taking the earthquakes seriously. It's clear from a lengthy report this weekend from StateImpact Texas that it hasn't yet been met. The agency's rules currently focus on preventing groundwater contamination and have no provisions governing a disposal wells' possible connection to seismic activity. So, even if a preponderance of evidence suggests that a certain disposal is causing earthquakes, there's nothing the RRC can do to shut the well down or limit the amount of fluid injected.

The calls for the RRC to do something to change that are growing louder. Last week, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram urged the agency to revisit its current limit on disposal sites, which stands at 30,000 barrels of wastewater per day at many wells. This weekend, The Dallas Morning News urged it to be much more proactive about seeking the earthquakes' cause.

Hopefully, the earthquakes don't get strong enough to cause serious damage. It's looking like that's what it will take to get the RRC's attention.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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48 comments
DFWconspiracy
DFWconspiracy

This is just like global warming, another made-up crisis dreamed up by the liberal media. Earthquakes and drilling are natural. God made us and we made drills. So what if grandma's house rattles a little. At least she's got power that we provide. Drill, baby, drill! Bwa-ha-ha!

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

We survived Spindletop and the first oil boom.  

I do not think we will slip into a lake of fire this time around either.

Americano
Americano

I'm sure the New Madrid fault that runs from here to Missouri has nothing to do with it.

Deelio
Deelio

Earthquakes? Water shortages? Coastal islands sinking?  Better get the deniers out in full force. Can't be the oil companies' fault. 


Maybe RP can pray for a stop in the earthquakes like he did a prayer for rain. That seems to be the Perry way. Deny and Pray.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

You people know that we have two major faultlines running through Texas, right?  There's nothing unusual about naturally occurring earthquakes happening in clusters.  If anything, this should have us worrying about them being natural, and warning us of another New Madrid mega-quake.

markzero
markzero

 It's not clear what burden of proof is required before the RRC begins taking the earthquakes seriously.


A sinkhole opening up under the hellmouth that is Cowboys Stadium?

RichGans
RichGans

The reason the RRC is spineless is because of Rick Perry.... do y'all think Greg Abbott will be any better? 

Lorlee
Lorlee

we may be able to thumb our nose at the Saudis over natural gas -- but who are we going to buy water from?  9 BILLION gallons a month!!!  We are headed for a water crisis without taking 9 BILLION gallons a month out of the equation forever.  Once you frack with it, it is unusable.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter


Times Man of the Year:

The American Fracker

Hydraulic fracking may just save the Nation from financial ruin, fund entitlements, public pension plans, and secure the country from a volatile Middle East.

a small price to pay should we lose Azle to a lake of fire.

(I couldn't help it)

LeroyJenkem
LeroyJenkem

This will be dealt with the way most other major issues in Texas are dealt with. Namely, not a damn thing until the kid of some rich asshole in Highland Park or The Woodlands dies, and then suddenly it's a "crisis". Of course, it was a crisis before, but not when it only affects people who don't have a US Senator on speed dial, and that Senator answers "Yes, Daddy."

ruddski
ruddski

The House of Saud hopes to hell Texas stops all this energy exploitation, for your own good.

andy427
andy427

@Americano I'm sure the New Madrid seismic zone runs nowhere near here.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@Deelio Yeah, the "deniers" are the ones leaping to unconfirmed speculation as a call to arms, right?


All of you fools are like witch doctors.  Something happens in nature and you can't resist thinking that we caused it with our impure "oil company" thoughts, right?


Do you think maybe we can solve your religious problem without sacrificing a few million brown people on the altar of malaria and malnutrition like you clowns did with DDT?

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Something else -- this quake occurred at least 10 miles deep.  No fracking well is deeper than 2 miles.  How is it supposed to have caused a quake that deep?  What is the mechanism?  I assure you that the eight miles of intervening rock has magnitudes more mass and contributes more pressure than the piddling amount (on a geological scale) of fluid they are injecting into these formations.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@RichGans

LOL. Railroad Commission -as if.


 The reason that the RCC is spineless is because it is not a regulatory agency but a platform from which to launch political careers in Texas.

pak152
pak152

where are you getting 9 billion gallons a month?
"In Tarrant County, Texas, Ceres found that fracking consumed 2.8 billion gallons in 2011, and that was only "about 10% of the water used in all of Texas for hydraulic fracturing."

That's an impressive and disturbing statistic—until you compare it with, say, the amount of water Texans dump onto their lawns. Folks in Fort Worth, Tarrant County's biggest city with a population of more than 750,000, used an average 6.8 billion gallons a year outside their residences from 2004 through 2011, according to the Texas Water Development Board, with 80% to 90% going onto lawns."

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324637504578568533026520790?mod=rss_industry_energy


aalso the oil companies are increasingly recycling the water that they use
http://www.environmentalleader.com/2013/07/18/fracking-companies-up-recycled-water-use/

NotReallyThanks
NotReallyThanks

@Lorlee Waterless fracturing will be the norm soon enough. Feel free to remain hysterical though

pak152
pak152

didn't know you were an agent

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @Deelio


Mr. Deelio just qualified himself for public office.

In a discussion regarding a planned military buildup on the Pacific island of Guam, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) expressed some concerns about the plans to Adm. Robert Willard, head of the U.S. Pacific fleet.

"My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize," Johnson said. Willard paused and replied, "We don't anticipate that."

So Mr. Deelio, if elected to the Texas Railroad Commission, whataya gonna do about Guam?  Huh?  That's just what I thought.  No answer.   

pak152
pak152

don't confuse them with facts


Lorlee
Lorlee

I got it from having good reading comprehension "But they probably are caused by injecting the resulting wastewater -- nine billion gallons per month in Texas -- deep underground."  Found in the original post. 

Also had an interesting chat with a 40 year oil and gas geologist yesterday who confirmed my concern that water is the real issue with fracking.  Again, I will look forward to the day when we have waterless fracking.  Until that day, I will remain concerned. 

Lorlee
Lorlee

I will look forward to that day and in the meantime maintain my concern for the loss of water.


TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@holmantx @Lorlee

Maybe we should require the frackers to import their water from France. I'll bet they'd learn to be a lot more frugal with that resource if they had to pay for Perrier to mix the toxic cocktails they are shooting down there.

pak152
pak152

"Maybe if they would release their recipes for that fluid, we could decide whether or not that water might again, some day, be useful to us."
http://www.energyfromshale.org/hydraulic-fracturing/hydraulic-fracturing-fluid

"Halliburton Canada vice-president John Gorman’s served up samples of frack fluid in champagne bottles, encouraging his audience to take a swig of his company’s CleanStim blend."
http://business.financialpost.com/2013/10/31/haliburton-fracking-fluid/?__lsa=10ff-ac54


FracFocus Chemical Registry
http://fracfocus.org/

pak152
pak152

" are not forever tainting the water that they use," what about all the fertilizers and other chemicals applied to lawns? wouldn't they also taint the water?

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@holmantx

I 'm pretty sure that grey water and brackish water are not the same thing.


Grey water refers to "clean" sewerage effluent (no human waste) while brackish water is salinated to some degree.


Sewage and grey water effluent are both eminently treatable and we do so each and every day in every corner of this country - every drop of sewage and grey water effluent is recyclable and most of it does in fact get recycled in some fashion or other.


If they are using brackish water, where is that coming from?

Lorlee
Lorlee

A simple comment is "blowhard" -- get a grip.  That is why most people don't comment.  No one can seem be be civil  and respond to the point but simply descend into abusive ad hominem. 

Lorlee
Lorlee

It's not a choice of lawns or fracking -- amazing how you guys get off track.  The water from the lawns evaporates and gets rained back onto us.  The fracked water is GONE forever.


holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk @holmantx


We're selling them grey water (brackish)

Most wells are either completed or not based upon the amount of highly salinated water that also comes out.  Water at great depths kills humans and livestock.  It's pumped back into the ground in disposal wells if possible.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@holmantx @TheCredibleHulk

I'm not against making money in the private sector. I do know, however, that mankind has a distinct tendency to be quite shortsighted with regard to caution and responsible stewardship of our resources in the quest for that profit.


Maybe if they would release their recipes for that fluid, we could decide whether or not that water might again, some day, be useful to us.


ohhh. . .  right. . . 

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

I pay enough for Perrier as it is now.

Keep your trap shut.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk


Maybe we could lease our desalination plants to the Spanish or French like we do our tollways.

God forbid if we let our private sector make money off of them.

Or maybe we should just nationalize the energy companies.

Or continue our NIMBY ways and buy all that yucky oil and gas from countries who are not so afflicted with drilling.

Besides, who says that frack water will never seign back to the surface as potable water?  That's the dynamic we use to cleanse industrial water we dump right now.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@holmantx @TheCredibleHulk


One way or another, we'll be desalinating water for human consumption sometime in the future.


Just works out real conveniently that that cost will be socialized far in the future while those profits are taken today by the industry.


And all this time I thought you guys hated socialism. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk


I'm all for the health of the lawn care industry however, the economic benefit of this new energy source is off the charts, for this state and this nation.


Maybe we should look into evaporating it or piping in salt water from the Gulf.  But then there goes our cheap electricity.  


It certainly would make EFH happy.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @TheCredibleHulk


Huge fail in reading comprehension.


Did I say a word about earthquakes?


We were discussing the water use in this particular backwater of the thread.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk That 2.8 billion gallon used for fracking is gone - forever


You've got a huge flaw in your logic there.  If the injected water can't escape the formation, then there is no way it is causing seismic activity.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@holmantx @TheCredibleHulk @Lorlee

Maybe we should require homeowners to import Perrier for lawncare, as well.


One important distinction, though, folks watering their lawns are not forever tainting the water that they use, and presumably that water will be cycled naturally through the hydrological system to water lawn on another day.


That 2.8 billion gallon used for fracking is gone - forever

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk @holmantx @Lorlee


In Tarrant County fracking consumed 2.8 billion gallons in 2011.

Fort Worth used an average 6.8 billion gallons on their lawns in that same year.

Texans consumed 18 times more water in keeping their grass green than the industry used in frac jobs in 2011.

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