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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Railroad Commissioner to Visit Earthquake Alley

The Railroad Commission of Texas doesn't regulate railroads ~ not since the Federal government took over that role in the 1980's.  They do have jurisdiction over the Oil and Gas Industry.  One of their three Commissioners, David Porter, plans to visit residents in Azle, Texas this Thursday where he will hostTown Hall meeting to discuss the recent quake swarm in that area.   

Scientists have recognized the correlation between hydrocarbon production and earthquakes since the 1960's ~ well, actually as far back as the 1920's.  So, if the injection of huge volumes of fluid at high pressure causes seismicity, why not shut down the operation ~ at least in residential communities?  

It's not that simple.  

First, the Railroad Commission doesn't believe in sound science ~ and even if they did ~  they do not have the jurisdiction to shut them down over seismic activity.   

Also, the balance between profits and public safety is tricky business ~ especially when such strong ties exist between the regulators and the industry they regulate.  David Porter began his CPA practice in Midland three decades ago providing accounting, financial and tax services for the Oil and Gas Industry. 

While we don't expect anything but a dog and pony show,  it is important for citizens to show up and voice their concerns.  Communities and public safety are AT RISK.  We believe the only way to turn this train around is to divest from fossil fuels and move towards a renewable energy future.  

In the meantime, make it your New Years' Resolution to purchase earthquake insurance!

There have been  30 North Texas Earthquakes Since November.

Town Hall Information:

Date:  Thursday, January 2, 2014
Time:   5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Location:  Azle High School Auditorium, 1200 Boyd Road, Azle, TX



  1. Azel has experienced 30 earthquakes in two months in an area that barely had any quakes before fracking began.

    The number of earthquakes has increased dramatically over the past few years within the central and eastern United States,” the United States Geological Survey says on its website. “More than 300 earthquakes above magnitude 3.0
    occurred in the three years from 2010-2012, compared with an average rate of 21 events per year observed from 1967-2000.” The USGS says that at some of those locations, disposal wells are behind the quakes.

    Yet, the Railroad Commission tells us there might be a hypothetical link between earthquakes and disposing fracking fluid in abandoned wells. I suppose that if someone hit them on the head with a sledge hammer thirty times in two months, they would ask the tormenter to stop even if the link between the beatings and their pane was hypothetical.

    The epicenter of one of these quakes was only 2.5 miles from the earthen dam. This dam was built in 1932 and is rated as a high-hazard dam. Professor Gail Atkinson of Western University told me that moderate quakes very close to the dam, at very shallow depths (2 to 5 km), could produce large ground motions, due mainly to shallow depth which brings them close to structures on the surface.

    Eagle Mountain Lake contains ten times as much water as Lake Conemaugh that produced the Johnstown flood. With a volumetric flow rate that temporarily equaled that of the Mississippi River, that flood killed 2,209 people and caused the equivalent of about $425 million damage in 2012 dollars. A flood ten times that size could produced $4.2 Billion dollars of damage (2012 dollars).

    Most of us built earthen dams on small creeks as children. None of us was ever successful in stopping the water. We remember that water penetrates any a small crack and enlarges it until our dam ruptures.

    The Railroad Commission may take comfort with the image of engineers walking along the dam with strain gauges to look for ground movement, but by that time the damage will be irreversible. Ask the Head of the Corps of Engineers whether he can even locate if not to mention fix a micro-crack in a dam.

    What will happen if the Eagle Mountain Lake dam fails? Lake Worth can't hold all that water. It will flood down the West Fork of the Trinity River, swooping around 270 degrees of downtown Ft Worth, on through Arlington, destroying homes and businesses, and who knows what will happen in Grand Prairie and Dallas.

    After that, how will we replace Lake Worth, the source of 10% of our community's water supply?

    The good news is that earthquakes have stopped in some places when the disposal of fracking water ceased. The Railroad Commission has the power to stop this disposal, and they are the only people who can stop it. They may choose to continue to ignore the danger. If they do, they need to remember the Johnstown flood, and they need to know they may be held accountable for the deaths of 22,000 people and for $4.2 Billion dollars of property damage.

  2. Thank you, Richard. Fracking near dams is risky business, and the Railroad Commission needs to take this issue seriously. Guess it's hard to relate to the fracking realities of the Barnett Shale when you're living in Austin and your livelihood depends on finances from Oil & Gas. 300 quakes in an area that was not historically known for seismicity is a wake up call. We hope they do something before it's too late. Lives and property are at stake.

  3. Dams have failed before and without much warning. We've written about the Baldwin Hills Dam that not unlike "The Titanic" was "never going to fail." Our dams in North Texas have all been either fracked directly under, around and/or very near. We should be very concerned about it.

    The Baldwin Hills Dam