One would think maybe, just maybe, XTO Energy, faced with a peer-reviewed study by SMU researchers and a mountain of evidence that the company is causing earthquakes, would consider shutting down its fracking and disposal wells in Azle and Reno.
The SMU and federal research demonstrates pretty clearly that the swarm of earthquakes that struck Azle and nearby town Reno in 2013 were caused by fracking-related activities, namely wastewater disposal. The evidence was so convincing, in fact, that the Texas Railroad Commission, an agency that isn't exactly unfriendly to oil and gas interests, scheduled a hearing for XTO, where it would be forced to prove that the best thing for Texas, and the environment, was not to close the wells. The first of those hearings was Wednesday afternoon.
Andree Griffin, XTO’s Vice President for geology and geophysics, told the commission that the quakes were the result of more that 600 million years of tectonic activity. That XTO has been able to successfully drill in the area at all, he said, is evidence that the geological environment under Azle has changed.
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The SMU researchers stuck to their guns in a written statement, but declined to comment on Griffin's assertions specifically.
We realize the show-cause hearings for injection wells in the Reno-Azle area are taking place over the next two weeks. We view the hearings as a policy decision being made by the RRC that, in turn, has significant economic repercussions for the companies in question. We do not comment on policy. As such, we will not be providing comments on the hearings or on any non-peer reviewed science being presented at the hearings. We remain confident in the conclusions presented in our peer-reviewed publication, which was based on multiple lines of evidence. As always, we look forward to collaborating with government, industry and subject-matter experts.
The hearings are set to continue through next week. You can watch them live, if you're so inclined, but you'll need RealPlayer to do so.