Feds Get In On Dallas Earthquake Action, Say Region Is At Substantial Risk of More Shaking

Categories: Environment

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United States Geological Survey
DFW is one of 17 areas identified in a United States Geological Survey report released today as having a high risk for "induced seismicity." That means we're doing something that's making the ground shake, namely injecting wastewater byproducts from energy gathering activities back into the ground.

"This new report describes for the first time how injection-induced earthquakes can be incorporated into U.S. seismic hazard maps," Mark Petersen, Chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Modeling Project, said. "These earthquakes are occurring at a higher rate than ever before and pose a much greater risk to people living nearby. The USGS is developing methods that overcome the challenges in assessing seismic hazards in these regions in order to support decisions that help keep communities safe from ground shaking."

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New Study Says 2013 North Texas Quakes Likely Caused by Oil and Gas Activity

Categories: Environment

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City of Irving
The 2013 earthquake swarm that centered around the town of Azle in Tarrant County was likely the result of natural gas drilling and wastewater injection, according to a report published Tuesday in the Nature Communications journal.

According to Matthew Hornbach, an SMU associate professor of geophysics and lead author of the study, high injection rates to the west of a previously dormant fault, combined with high removal rates on the east side of the fault, created a pressure differential that led to the tremors, which topped out in November and December of 2013 with two 3.6 magnitude quakes.

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The Defenders of the Great Trinity Forest [Video]

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Sarah Passon
Great Trinity Forest advocate Ben Sandifer on the Texas Buckeye Trail.
Ben Sandifer isn't the Great Trinity Forest's only guardian angel. A small but dedicated contingent of amateur naturalists and environmentalists have devoted themselves to exploring and preserving the thousands of acres of wildlands that follow the Trinity River through southern Dallas. But Sandifer is their leader, and he has emerged in recent years as the forest's most forceful advocate.

See the video: Touring Dallas' Endangered Great Trinity Forest with Ben Sandifer

This wasn't Sandifer's intent when he first plunged into the forest. A corporate accountant by day, he was basically a weekend warrior, albeit one prone to wandering off established trails and taking breathtaking photographs, which he would post on his Dallas Trinity Trails blog.

But Sandifer's hobby has become increasingly political as City Hall has latched onto the Great Trinity Forest as a potential boon to economic development in southern Dallas. As the city began work on a massive equestrian center, a world-class golf course and miles of concrete trails, often with little regard for the environment, Sandifer began lobbying to protect threatened areas.

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Kingston: "Rely on the State of Texas for Public Health and Safety, You Get the West Explosion"

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Philip Kingston for City Council
Clay Jenkins, Philip Kingston (and Lee Kleinman) in happier times.
Ahead of a vote next week in the Texas House of Representatives on a bill that would strip Texas cities of most of their power to regulate a certain resource extraction process that totally doesn't cause earthquakes or flaming tap water and will carry the United States to energy independence, local leaders including Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas City Council Member Philip Kingston denounced the measure at City Hall on Thursday.

Kingston, as you can hear in KERA's audio of the press conference, gave what has to be the definitive quote of Dallas' fight to stop HB 40.

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Texas Law Boosting Wind Power Worked, So Legislator Wants to Do Away with It

Categories: Environment

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Kim AlanizFlickr
It was good while it lasted.
Texas' rapidly expanding renewable energy industry owes much of its success to, of all people, a Republican state senator from Horseshoe Bay, one who is now trying to stop cities from banning fracking. Ten years ago Senator Troy Fraser authored legislation that required that Texas get 10,000 megawatts of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025. The program was a success, as far as the renewable industry was concerned. By 2013, Texas had far more wind turbines than any other state.

But now Fraser is the author of a new bill, SB 931, that would end Texas' renewable energy requirements. "His assessment is that the programs worked and, his words, he keeps saying 'mission accomplished,'" says Jeffrey Clark, the executive director of trade group The Wind Coalition.

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Trio of North Texas Tremors Confirms SMU Quake Research

Categories: Environment

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U.S. Geological Survey
The USGS' "Did You Feel It" map for Thursday's Biggest Quake
The swarm, it seems, is still with us. Thursday, North Texas earth quaked three times. Each of the tremors struck near a two-mile line connecting Irving and West Dallas that SMU researchers Heather DeShon and Brian Stump identified in February as the start locations of numerous temblors that have inflicted itself on North Texas.

The 5:36 p.m. quake clocked in at 3.3 on the Richter scale, making it the biggest to hit the area since the dueling 3.5 and 3.6 tremors that struck near the fault line on January 5 and 6. The 2.6 magnitude earthquake that came just after 3 a.m. was the eighth this month and the 35th of 2015. In the last year, 58 earthquakes have hit Dallas and its suburbs.

Previous North Texas earthquake swarms -- in 2008-2009 near DFW airport; 2009-2010 in Cleburne; and 2013-2014 near Azle -- have decayed after the strongest quake in the chain. In early March, Stump warned that the biggest quake in this swarm may still be on its way.

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Tech Researchers Find Drug-Resistant Bugs Blowing from Feedlots; Beef Reps Are Skeptical

Categories: Crime, Environment

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Socially Responsible Agricultural Project
People who live downwind from cattle feedlots are familiar with the smell of crap in the air, and Texas Tech researchers took it upon themselves to study that crap. The researchers analyzed dust samples taken near 10 cattle feedlots in Texas and found something disturbing, according to a recent study in Environmental Health Perspectives: the gene sequence for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It's been common knowledge for a long time that meat producers feed their animals antibiotics to make them fatter and less likely to get infections. But this is the first study showing that the resulting antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or "superbugs," can go airborne.

"I think it's important to note that worldwide there's this trend toward the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We know we are sort of losing the arms race against microbes," says Philip Smith, one of the researchers and a Texas Tech ecotoxicologist.

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As Mansfield Residents Push for Tougher Fracking Rules, the City (Slowly) Comes Around

Categories: Environment

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"Katherine Rose Park" by Jeremiahjr CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.
New regulations would increase the bugger between drill sites and Mansfield's parks.
There is nothing wrong with the way that Mansfield regulates fracking, according to the people who run Mansfield. "City leaders say the gas drilling ordinance in Mansfield is one of the most progressive and balanced ordinances in the Barnett Shale," city leaders say in a not-so-modest news release.

But some residents have noticed that the city has at least 200 wells drilled, with no rules to keep the wells a safe distance from homes or schools. So Mansfield officials are now working with citizens and the industry to pass a new drilling ordinance. Not that there was anything wrong with the old drilling ordinance. "Mansfield has made continuous improvements to its gas drilling ordinance" since 2009, the city says, describing the latest effort as not an improvement but an "enhancement."

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Why Is Climate Change Denier Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Invited to Speak at Earth Day Texas?

Categories: Environment

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frankieleon/Flickr
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is one of the politicians invited to speak at this year's Earth Day event in Dallas. Has someone lost his marbles?
Newly minted Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, conveniently oblivious to the mountains of scientific evidence that people are slowly but surely turning the planet into a scorching greenhouse, isn't sure if he believes in climate change. But he's damn sure about the best way to address it.

"I'll leave it in the hands of God," he told a crowd while campaigning last year. "He's handled our climate pretty well for a long time."

That Patrick would summarily dismiss global warming isn't a surprise. Climate change denial has become part of the Republican gospel in Texas; acknowledge its existence and a politician risks certain blowback. But inviting an avowed climate-change denier like Patrick to be a key speaker at Earth Day Texas, the self-described mission of which is to "elevate environmental awareness and influence the way Texans think, live and work"? When anti-fracking activist Sharon Wilson saw Patrick's name listed on a promotional flier Earth Day Texas provided to her allies at Frack Free Denton, she was perplexed. When she saw the other speakers listed -- Attorney General Ken Paxton, Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton, and The Skeptical Environmentalist author Bjorn Lumborg, she wondered if she were being trolled.

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Waste Control Specialists' Plan for Nuclear Waste Is a Dallas Valentine for Rural Texas

Categories: Environment

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Argonne National Laboratory
The notorious radioactive waste dump in West Texas once run by late, politically-corrupt connected Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons could soon begin a new, more extreme phase of waste-dumping.

On Friday, Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the company will seek a license to temporarily -- up to 100 years -- store spent fuel rods from reactors. The idea is that the fuel would go to the company's controversial facility in Andrews County, now only permitted to hold low-level radioactive waste. But in a letter to regulators Friday, WCS announced intentions to apply for a permit that would allow storage of "highly-reactive" waste.

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