StateImpact

Is Railroad Commission Getting Serious About Man-Made Quakes?

New rules aimed at preventing man-made earthquakes tied to drilling.

The agency that regulates the Texas oil and gas industry announced new rules this week aimed at preventing manmade earthquakes tied to oil and gas drilling operations.

When you drill for oil and gas, it isn’t only the fuels that come up. You also get a lot of dirty water, which drillers dispose of by injecting it deep underground. Add in a lot of water at a high pressure, and you can get manmade quakes.

Texas has had hundreds of small and medium quakes over the last few years as drilling has boomed thanks to fracking. But for years the state oil and gas regulator — the Railroad Commission — said the quakes weren’t really a problem. They said the science wasn’t settled, despite numerous studies.

Now the commission is starting to do something.

“It’s kinda like when you’re in a 12-step program. You know, the first thing you need to do admit that you have a problem. And I think the Railroad Commission has done that by proposing these rules.”

Cyrus Reed is with the Sierra Club in Austin, which welcomes the proposed rules but says more can be done.

Think of it like “call before you dig.” Drillers will have to do a seismic analysis of the area around a proposed disposal well. And the commission will have the authority to step in if quakes occur. The proposed rules are open for public comment until next month.

For more visit, StateImpact Texas.

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