From the Associated Press:
A key Texas state agency announced Tuesday it is hiring a seismologist, part of an effort to tackle a sudden increase in earthquakes in areas with significant oil and gas drilling activities.
The Railroad Commission, which regulates drilling statewide, said the move came after a public meeting last week in Azle, a town frequently rattled of late by earthquakes, about 50 miles northwest of Dallas.
"It is imperative that the commission remain engaged and involved in gathering more evidence and data into any possible causation between oil and gas activities and seismic events," Commissioner David J. Porter said in a statement. "Commission rules and regulations must be based on sound science and proven facts. In order to do so, I propose the commission hire an in-house seismologist."
The statement said an on-staff seismologist will help the commission follow new research and better coordinate scientific information with the research community. The job has been posted, and the commission says it will conduct a nationwide search before filling it.
Earthquakes are not unheard of in North Texas, though they have been reported with greater frequency as the state experiences a boom in oil and natural gas exploration. Experts aren't sure what's causing the spike in seismic activity, but one theory is that the shaking could be related to wastewater from oil and gas drilling that is often discarded by injecting it deep into underground wells.
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.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.