Producers Defend Fracking Practices

RCC Studies Texas Quakes
RCC Studies Texas Quakes

XTO and Enervest were summoned to Austin last week to try and persuade the Texas Railroad Commission that their operations are not to blame for recent earthquakes in North Dallas.

Related: Texas Earthquakes: The Verdict is Still Out

This unusual request was a result of a highly-publicized and debated study conducted by SMU researchers that concluded two specific wastewater injection wells are likely the cause of a rare string of earthquakes over the last few years (more here).  Though the public seems convinced of this causal link, Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton said publicly he is 'unconvinced'.

XTO, a subsidiary of ExxonMobile, presented mounds of evidence to defend their fracking practices including more than 30 exhibits, dozens of slides, and three expert witnesses. The company argued that the unusual seismic activity was a natural occurrence and in hopes that the RRC from shutting down their wells.

The earth has been moving continuously over time, and that movement is the result of natural tectonic forces far away but that express themselves right here.
— Tim George, Attorney for XTO

This is the first time the commission has required a company to prove it’s not to blame for earthquakes. Recent policy changes now allow the agency to revoke permits if wells are linked to earthquakes.

Enervest is expected to put on its case today and tomorrow.

You can watch the hearing at

Texas Earthquake Study Under Review

RCC Studies Texas Quakes
RCC Studies Texas Quakes

The Texas Railroad Commission is hosting a meeting to discuss the findings of a recent study on seismic activity in Texas.

Related: Texas Earthquakes Linked to Fracking

In April, scientists published a study in the scientific journal, Nature Communications, confirming that oil and gas activities are likely to blame for a series of earthquakes in Azle  and Reno Texas. At a meeting scheduled for June 5th, Commissioner Ryan Sitton and other technical staff will join the scientists and researchers to discuss the findings.

Commissioner Sitton has established the following goals for the meeting:

1) To understand the nature of this and similar studies

2) To explore what additional data could contribute to better scientific understanding on the processes that may be involved

3) To assess how these data might be efficiently and economically obtained

4) To determine what additional information could be requested of operators

5) To consider what regulatory changes the Railroad Commission could make to ensure that oil and gas continues to be developed safely yet with minimal economic impact in Texas

6) To discuss what future research and study is taking place that will enhance and further refine the scientific findings for Azle and other areas in Texas.


  • Friday, June 5, 2015 at 9:00 AM CST
  • William B. Travis State Office Building
  • 1701 N. Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas
  • Room 12-126.1 (12th floor)
  • Access live stream at

Texas Quakes Strike Again

4.0 Quake Hits North Texas
4.0 Quake Hits North Texas

The rumbling continues in North Texas as more earthquakes hit the area since last Thursday.

A 4.0 earthquake struck about 30 miles southwest of Dallas and is the most powerful quake since the current rash of seismic activity began in 2013. Two smaller quakes followed over the weekend, in the Mansfield (2.4) and Irving (2.7) areas.

Related: Four Texas Quakes within 24 Hours

The Texas Railroad Commission sent representatives to the area to inspect natural gas wells and disposal sites for damage and have asked for cooperation from operators in order to determine the effect of injection operations on pressures within subsurface rock formations. Bosque Disposal Systems, LLC, EOG Resources, Inc., and MetroSaltwater Disposal, Inc., Pinnergy, Ltd. have all  voluntarily agreed to temporarily shut down operations in order to conduct testing.

We take the issue of seismicity very seriously and want to move quickly to better understand if there are actions the Commission should require of operators to protect the public, up to and including shutting down well operations,” said Dr. Craig Pearson, Commission staff seismologist. “More data is always useful in making these kinds of critical decisions that impact the public and the industry.

esearchers from SMU are not surprised by this recent activity and are urging people to think differently about Texas quakes, which are no longer rare.  They recently spoke to a Texas legislative committee recently to garner support for better preparedness.

We emphasized to the House Committee on Energy Resources the need for a permanent regional network, supplemented by portable instruments, that we can deploy in a time-sensitive manner when earthquakes occur.
— SMU Associate Professor of Geophysics, Matthew Hornbach