Tag Archives: railroad commission of texas


“All Shook Up” over Earthquakes in Reno

Azle resident tells Railroad Commission of Texas that he is all “Shook Up” over recent earthquakes resulting from injection of wastewater in North Texas. One of the many ugly results of fracking and wastewater injection.

Azlers and Renoers tell Railroad Commission and Capitol staffers to take action now

Image It was an unusual day at the Railroad Commission of Texas, which of course regulates not railroads but the Oil and Gas industry. Normally, it is three commissioners, lobbyists and lawyers making decisions about enforcement cases or permits. A busload of folks from Azle and Reno and Smithville does not arrive at the front of the William Travis Building and you certainly don’t have someone sing a version of “all shook up.” But then these are not normal times for the folks from North Central Texas. Since November they have felt over 30 earthquakes — first in Azle and more recently in Reno. They believe the culprit to be vast volumes of wastewater — saltwater and associated toxics — that are being injected underground in the three-county area near Azle (Parker, Wise and Tarrant). In the meantime, countless buildings, homes and yards have been damaged. Their demands, repeated again and again by Reno Mayor Stokes and others were threefold:

  • Moratorium on injection of wastewater in the area;
  • Study relationship and come up with stronger regulations on injection; and
  •  Set up a fund to pay for all the damage.

From citizens approaching 80, to a couple of 12-year-olds, the North Texans made clear their anger at suddenly being woken up in the middle of the night. One mom said it was unacceptable for kids to grow up terrified and traumatized. Homeowners described sinkholes that had started as depressions and had grown to 12-feet holes in the ground.

The duly elected commissioners listened attentively but did not have fast action on their mind. Chairman Smitherman explained through his staff that a moratorium is beyond their authority, though they can take action on individual permits if there is evidence that they are violating their permit levels. Field operations head Ramon Fernandez said they had recently inspected 11 out of the 13 disposal wells in the area, and that only one — Finley Resources – had issues and was currently “shut-in” due to pressure in the production well.

They also let the citizens know that they had no authority to seek restitutions for damages related to the tremors and earthquakes for surface damage, though they did want to record and look at any sinkholes, which are within their jurisdiction.

So what are they doing? First, Smitherman said they were going to hire a seismologist to do an indepth study of the issue, and they were already actively collaborating with USGS and SMU on gaining a better understanding about injection, activities, the geology and in particular the Karst formations of the Ellenburger where the wastes are being injected. They would put all injection wells on a quarterly inspection regime to monitor any issues, and they would likely publish a new proposed rule on injection wells in the next few months. It should be noted that a previous version of a proposed new rule on injection wells did not require any particular seismic evaluation or monitoring, and Sierra Club will be attempting to significantly improve these outdated rules, which were developed long before thousands of wells were producing millions of gallons of produced and flowback wastewater from fracking.

Railroad Commission staff also showed some pretty detailed data on the injection wells themselves, and noted that two private wells — one owned by Exxon-Mobile subsidiary XTO Energy and one by Houston-based Enervest Ltd. — that are nearest to Azle and Reno had decreased injection of wastewater in recent months. (It should be noted that most literature does not posit a direct relationship between total volume and seismicity but rather suggest that continued injection over a long time will lead to induced seismic activity, usually with some lag time). While pinpointing seismic activity to a particular well is virtually impossible, there is no doubt that with 13 wells injecting some 10,000 acre-feet of wastewater per year within 15 miles of the two towns — not to mention within miles of the earthen dams that keep water from Eagle Mountain Lake from downstream residents (hey Fort Worth and Dallas!) — Texans have a right to be concerned and the Railroad Commission should step up their studies and regulations. In fact, one former NASA engineer in attendance noted that while it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, he was in fact a rocket scientist!

Attendees streamed out of the Commission meeting, clearly disappointed with the tepid response, and headed to the Capitol, for a pizza lunch and conversation with legislative staff. In attendance were staffers from Myra Crownover, Craig Estes, Charlie Geren, Lon Burnam, Phil King, Tony Canales and several others. It should be noted that Crownover, King, Canales and Chris Paddie were all named to a special Subcommittee on Seismic Activity last week by Chairman Jim Keffer. Crownover Chief of Staff Kevin Cruser to expect some meetings in a few months, including a potential meeting up in their area. And the discussion continues… along with the earthquakes.


The Azlers are Coming, the Renoers are coming!

Austin may never be the same. This morning a busload of folks from Azle and Reno — including the mayor — are scheduled to arrive in Austin and address the three elected commissioners of the Railroad Commission of Texas on the impacts of the tremors, earthquakes and sinkholes that is affected North Central Texas. These folks are angry and believe that oil and gas activity and in particular injection wells are causing shifts in the Earth, leading to property damage and frayed nerves. North central Texas is not the only place that oil and gas activity has appeared to induce seismic activity. Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio and Holland, which just set limits on gas production because of the frequent tremors.  


After addressing the Commission, the Reno Mayor and here cohorts are off to the Capitol to speak to their representatives and staff. In the meantime, Energy Committee Chair Jim Keffer has formed a special subcommittee on Seismic Induction, to be led by Representative Myra Crownover. More to come. 

Does Azle represent the tipping point, leading to more protective regulations on fracking?

Located some 15 miles northwest of Fort Worth, the small city of Azle — some 11,000 folks – seems an unlikely place to start a revolution for better regulations or even a moratorium on fracking and the related disposal of oil and gas wastes in “injection wells.” Primarily an anglo and middle-class town – many of whom commute to the Dallas-Fort Worth area — and best known as the gateway to Eagle Mountain Lake — a large dam on the Trinity River –  a bunch of tremors and earthquakes – including one last night — has led to citizen concern over the cumulative impacts of all that injection of water and wastes underground. In fact some of these tremors have occurred near or below Eagle Mountain lake.

The first official citizen response was the January 2nd town hall meeting with RRC Commissioner Porter — typified by angry citizens asking for better regulations or even a time-out on fracking and injection wells. Many seemed aghast that the RRC did not have better answers about the relationship between the recent tremors plaguing the area and the oil and gas activities and that further regulations were not yet being considered. Then a few days later, Porter announced the RRC would hire a seismologist to “assess the science.”

And the citizens are meeting again, this time with EarthWorks to discuss what is known and possible regulations. Here is some information about that meeting.

Still need answers about fracking earthquakes?

Don’t ask questions, demand answers.

Learn how. Come to the Azle Community Center on Jan 13th.

A meeting to find out how to force our “regulators” to do their jobs and protect our property and communities.

The town hall meeting the Texas Railroad Commission held on January 2nd to discuss earthquakes connecting with hydraulic fracturing was disappointing.

While Azle residents are at risk and their children practice earthquake drills, our regulators ducked questions and dashed away from the meeting to watch a football game.

The RRC’s behavior at the town hall, and previously, shows they are not interested in overseeing the oil and gas industry so much as providing political cover for it.

Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project
North Central Texas Communities Alliance
Calvin Tillman, former Mayor of Dish, Texas

Monday January 13 at 6:30 pm

Azle Community Center
404 West Main

Sharon Wilson 940-389-1622

In the meantime, Earthworks, Sierra Club and many others are looking at what regulations are needed. A good resource is a white paper published on seismicity impacts of oil and gas resources published on the Groundwater Protection Council website. See here.

As an example, the State of Ohio through executive and then legislative action, developed the following new requirements for injection wells disposing of oil and gas waste. This information is from the above white paper.

“The new UIC Class II saltwater injection well rules proceeded through the legislative process, were passed and went into effect in October 2012. The ODNR started to issue new Class II saltwater injection well permits again in November 2012. The new permits incorporated theWhite Paper on Induced Seismicity Page 34

requirements from the new regulations. The chief of the division issuing the permits could include various new monitoring on a case-by-case basis:

• Pressure fall-off testing,

• Geological investigation of potential faulting within the immediate vicinity of the

proposed injection,

• Submittal of a seismic monitoring plan,

• Testing and recording of original bottomhole injection interval pressure,

• Minimum geophysical logging suite, such as gamma ray, compensated density-neutron,

and resistivity logs,

• Radioactive tracer or spinner survey, and

• Any such other tests the chief deems necessary.

In addition the new permits would not allow drilling and completion of the wells into the Precambrian basement rock. No injection would be allowed until the results of the monitoring are evaluated. Upon review of the data, the chief can withhold injection authority, require plugging of the well, or allow injection to commence. The chief has the authority to implement a graduated maximum allowable injection pressure. All new Class II injection wells must continuously monitor the injection and annulus pressures to maintain mechanical integrity. They must include a shut-off device installed on the injection pump set to the maximum allowable injection pressure.”

Since the RRC already has an open project on developing new rules for injection wells, now is the time to add new regulations to protect the citizens of Azle – and the rest of Texas.

Sierra Club Welcomes Safeguards on Oil and Gas Drilling

TexasRailroad Commission and U.S. EPA Implementing New Rules

'Gas Flare Arlington' by Wesley Miller

Today the Railroad Commission of Texas proposed a new rule for implementing HB 3328, the mandatory natural gas ‘fracking’ disclosure bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year. Under the Commission’s proposal, drillers of new natural gas wells will be required to begin reporting their use of chemicals, additives and base fluids as soon as the rules go into effect.

“The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club appreciates the hard work of the Railroad Commission staff and its commissioners in issuing a proposal sooner rather than waiting until 2012 as required under the law,” stated Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “With natural gas companies fracking at lightning speed all over the state — in the Barnett Shale in North Central Texas, the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas, Haynesville Shale in East Texas and the Permian Basin in West Texas, it is past time to require that operators tell the public what chemicals they are sending down their gas production wells. We urge the public to read the proposed rule, make comments and attend the public meeting in October. Mandatory disclosure is a good first step toward proper regulation of oil and gas exploration.”

The proposed rules will be published in the Texas register for a 30-day public comment period beginning in early September, and the Railroad Commission has scheduled a public hearing on October 5th in Austin.   Assuming the Commissioners adopt a final rule in early November, the rules will become effective in late November.

A copy of the proposed rules and the process for submitting comments and participating in the public hearing can be found at the Railroad Commission website at http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/rules/proposed.php

 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Oil and Gas Facilities Rule-making.  In addition to the proposed rules by the Railroad Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new air emissions standards on oil and gas facilities.  The EPA will hold three public meetings – on September on September 27, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 28, in Denver, Colorado, and September 29, in Arlington, Texas.   The Arlington hearing will be held from 9:00 AM CST until 8:00 PM CST at the Arlington Municipal Building in the City Council Chambers located at 101 W. Abram Street, Arlington, Texas 76010; telephone: (817) 459-6122.

Individuals and organizational representatives can contact:   Ms. Joan C. Rogers (919) 541-4487; fax number: (919) 541-3470; email address:rogers.joanc@epa.gov (preferred method for registering), no later than by 4:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time), 2 business days prior to each hearing.     

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Posted by Donna Hoffman, August 29, 2011