Environment

The New "TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program" Could (but Won't!) Explain Irving's Quakes

Buried deep within Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus' nearly 1,000-page budget is a measly little $2.5 million item of great interest to North Texans, the "TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program." Unfair Park was duly excited when we first caught wind of the plan, from the Texas Tribune. Surely, we thought, an initiative with as highfalutin a name as the "TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program" would be able to liberate us from the curiosity and existential dread that's possessed us as Irving has shook, rattled and rolled over the past few months.

Does the rumbling have anything to do with fracking? Or is the explanation something simpler, like God just hates inner-ring suburbs?

Scott Tinker, director of the University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, told the Tribune that "TexNet would create an improved statewide seismic monitoring network capable of detecting and locating earthquakes more precisely than can currently be done," as well as "would also improve our ability to respond to earthquakes quickly, if such a response were deemed appropriate."

Sweet! We were hoping for some sort of app-based drinking game, too, but this sounded like a good enough start.

Then we called Tinker. He wasn't there, the nice woman who answered the phone told us, but we could speak to Mark Blount, the Bureau of Economic Geology's spokesman. He couldn't tell us much, either, since the budget hasn't even been approved yet. What he did tell us was chilling, though.

"This is all just very premature right now, we're still in the discussion stages about it with the Railroad Commission," he said. "I know there's a line-item in the budget that refers to it, but it's still in the formative stages of discussion."

And there it went, hope, flitting out the window. The Texas Railroad Commission, the organization whose in-house seismologist Craig Pearson "see[s] no linkage between oil and gas activity and these recent earthquakes in Irving." Despite, you know, there having been no recorded earthquakes in North Texas history before 2008 and more than 100 since.

Homemade drinking games it is, we guess.

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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