A Texas agency is hiring a seismologist as part of an effort to tackle a sudden increase in earthquakes in areas with significant oil and gas drilling activities.
The Texas Railroad Commission, the agency that regulates drilling, says Tuesday it is hiring a seismologist after holding a contentious meeting with residents in Azle.
Azle, northwest of Fort Worth, has seen an increase in drilling activity in recent years, and is also in an area that has experienced dozens of earthquakes.
Railroad Commissioner David Porter says in a statement he decided a seismologist needed to be added to the staff to help the agency gather evidence to learn whether there is "any possible causation between oil and gas activities and seismic events."
In other earthquake news, the Texas Panhandle has recorded a minor earthquake. The U.S. Geological Survey says the 3.5 magnitude quake happened Monday morning and was centered 14 miles west of Vega. The Oldham County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday had no reports of damage or injuries from the quake. Vega is 30 miles west of Amarillo.
Booing, hooting from Azle residents
Azle residents sounded off last week at a public meeting about the earthquake swarm – and they were angry. There was booing and hooting. Residents complained about the ground shaking and damage to their homes as about 30 earthquakes have hit areas in and near Azle since November.
There’s no official reason for the quakes, but many residents pointed to oil and gas drilling in the Barnett Shale as the cause.
StateImpact Texas reported from last week’s meeting: One man asked if the Texas Railroad Commission can be trusted to address issues surrounding the earthquakes. Residents expressed concerns about cracked foundations, sinkholes, shifting propane tanks and pipelines, the cost of earthquake insurance and what the quakes could mean for groundwater.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported: “‘Something is going on. Stop drilling and see what happens,’ said Victoria Ball of Azle, a recommendation that drew applause and cheers from the audience.” The meeting was organized by Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter. The commission regulates the oil and gas industry. The agency is studying the issue, Porter told reporters.
"It feels like a semi-truck hitting your house with a bomb going off," one man said, according to WFAA-TV. "I'm serious."
More on earthquakes
Catch up on KERA’s earthquake coverage here – including a look at how geophysicists are placing monitoring boxes around the region to track earthquakes, as well as research that shows that injection wells from drilling might be to blame for the quakes.
Also, last week, NPR’s All Things Considered aired a report on the recent rise in Oklahoma earthquakes.