Azle earthquakes lead state agency to hire seismologist - Dallas News |

Azle earthquakes lead state agency to hire seismologist

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Days after a tense meeting with people rattled by the earthquakes that have rocked North Texas, one state agency is making some changes -- it's hiring a seismologist to look into a possible connection between the quakes and drilling.

There have been 28 earthquakes in North Texas since Nov. 1, and almost all of them have been in the Azle area.

The citizen participation portion of an Azle City Council meeting came and went within seconds Tuesday night; a stark difference from the night of Jan. 2 at a town hall meeting, where the subject of earthquakes attracted a raucous crowd of more than 1,000.

At the town hall meeting, the Railroad Commission was harshly criticized by residents, who largely blamed the injection wells from the natural gas fracking process for the wave of quakes.

But that meeting, which limited residents to comments only and no questions, prompted the commission to announce that it's hiring an in-house seismologist.

Commissioner David Porter says he wants more evidence and data into any possible causation between oil and gas activities and seismic events.

Homeowner Gary Bishop has discovered several cracks in his garage floor and on his driveway. He has also felt several of the quakes.

"A very quick jarring and you hear a sound, you hear a real thud," said Bishop.

He and other nearby homeowners want answers.

"We all need some direction," said Bishop. "What do you do? Do you try to buy earthquake insurance, do you make repairs?"

Bishop says for now, it looks like the Railroad Commission is at least heading in the right direction.

"Our hope is that that will at least be the beginning of uncovering what the cause is, and then what the solution would be," he said.

Another town hall-type meeting will take place Monday, on behalf of a non-profit group that supports oil and gas regulation.

Azle is a town about 50 miles northwest of Dallas. The area has seen an increase in drilling activity in recent years, and is also in an area that has experienced earthquakes.

Research at various drilling sites around the country has shown that wastewater injections can weaken nearby fault lines and produce quakes big enough to be felt. Drilling systems that rely on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," can also trigger quakes, but they are typically smaller than magnitude 2.

Fracking forces millions of gallons of water, sand and other materials underground to free pockets of fossil fuels. The energy industry has repeatedly insisted that the practice is safe.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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