DFW Preps For, Hit By, Earthquake Monday

Getting ready for the big one.
Getting ready for the big one.
City of Irving

There was another earthquake near the former site of Texas Stadium Monday morning. It wasn't a big one,  just 2.4 magnitude on the Richter scale, but it was the first in about two weeks. That North Texas being tremor-free for 15 days is news would've been unfathomable before 2008, but — thanks to the boogeyman of your choice — we've suffered 72 quakes in the last year.

After the shake, the Dallas Office of Emergency Management got a closed-door briefing from some of the major players in local earthquake monitoring: SMU researchers, the United States Geological Survey and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The timing of the meeting, just like the earthquakes — at least according to the companies currently hydraulically fracturing the Barnett Shale — was a coincidence.

The city isn't releasing any information from the presentation yet, and it would only say that it is "[continuing] to enhance [its] plans, public education strategies, training & exercise programs, and response capabilities to be able to manage the consequences of an emergency event independent of the cause."

If you've listened to the researchers from SMU or the USGS recently, you know what they think the cause is, regardless of whether the city is interested or not. SMU's seismic research team published a study in April laying the blame for Azle's 2013 earthquakes swarm squarely at the feet of natural gas drilling and its accompanying wastewater disposal through injection wells. The USGS identified North Texas later the same month as having increased risk for "induced seismicity." In other words, because of something we're doing, North Texas ground is far more likely to shake than it would be otherwise.

In April, Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Modeling Project, said the risk of Dallas getting hit by a big earthquake is small, but is exacerbated by repeated small earthquakes. That's why the city of Dallas, along with the city of Irving, is preparing for the potential of a for-real, actually damaging earthquake, something that hasn't happened yet.

As municipalities deal with the threat, fracking companies have continued to insist that the North Texas tremors are naturally caused. At dueling hearings in front of the Texas Railroad Commission in June, XTO Energy and Enervest blamed the quakes on 600 million years of seismic activity. Andree Griffin, XTO’s vice president for geology and geophysics, said that fracking itself was proof that the quakes were natural. Without a changing environment beneath the earth's crust, he reasoned, XTO wouldn't have been able to extract any natural gas from the drilling sites near Azle.

The city of Dallas says it will release more information about the data it received today in a couple of weeks.

"The information provided at today’s meeting is still in development by partners at the USGS and FEMA and we would like to extend our thanks to these and all partners in the continued collaboration to better understand our risks to all natural and human-caused hazards," a spokesman said in a statement.


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