A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency claims that earthquakes in North Texas may be linked to disposal wells used during fracking.
According to a copy of the report obtained by Courthouse News Service, the agency found that earthquakes around the Dallas area may have been caused by disposal wells used in hydraulic fracturing operations.
Officials from the Texas Rail Road Commission (RRC), the state’s oil and gas regulator, have publicly indicated that evidence of a connection between seismic activity and disposal wells is insufficient, the report noted.
The report, published on August 15, found that in “light of findings from several researchers, its own analysis of some cases, and the fact that earthquakes in some areas diminished following shut-in or reduced injection volume in targeted wells” the EPA believes there is “significant possibility that North Texas earthquake activity is associated with disposal wells.”
The comments were made as part of the EPA’s annual evaluation of the RRC’s underground injection control program.
The EPA found that reports of seismic activity in and around the cities of Azle, Cleburne and the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport “substantially diminished in frequency and magnitude” after RRC actions prompted several succesful voluntary disposal well closures and injection volume reductions.
The EPA said that, despite closures and volume reductions, earthquake events continued in other areas of North Texas, including “frequent events” in and near Irving.
In the report, the EPA said it’s “concerned with the level of seismic activity during 2015 in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area because of the potential to impact public health and the environment, including underground sources of drinking water.”
The EPA said it has recommended close monitoring of injection activity and a coordinated effort to “detect possible correspondence with seismic activity.”
The report also commended the RRC’s efforts to combat seismic activity by establishing new disposal well rules and “solidifying” its authority to take action on wells.
The RRC has not commented on the report.
Over the last several years the RRC has taken steps to shut down disposal wells or reduce injection volumes in an effort to curb seismic activity.
In late 2014, the RRC tightened waste water disposal well rules and revised rules to strengthen it’s ability to limit injection volumes and shutdown wells.
The RRC temporarily shut in five North Texas disposal wells in May 2015 after a 4.0 magnitude earthquake shook the city of Venus.