Federal Report: Texas at High Risk for ‘Induced Earthquakes’

The new study says about 7 million people live in areas that could be affected by man-made tremors.

By Lucía BenavidesMarch 29, 2016 11:24 am

In the evolution of the Texas language, one of the newer and more notable words in our vocabulary is “fracking.”  Fracking as a practice – hydraulic fracturing – has been a part of the energy business for quite a long time indeed. But the process of extracting from places otherwise thought to be too cost prohibitive, like horizontally, has been at the center of the so-called the fracking revolution which has emerged over the past 15 years or so. The idea is to fracture or shatter the subsurface shale with liquid, which leaves a lot of chemical-laced wastewater to be injected back into the ground.

This process hasn’t just shaken up the energy industry – some claim it’s shaking the very ground we’re standing on in the form of tremors and earthquakes. The evidence isn’t conclusive, but many consider there to be an undeniable correlation between an increase in fracking and an increase in seismic activity – including the US Geological Survey.

This week, the USGS released its first ever annual assessment of earthquake hazards covering both natural and what it calls “induced” earthquakes.  Among the most vulnerable places to be, Texas comes in at number two, just after Oklahoma. North of the Red River, reporter Joe Wertz has been covering the intersection of energy and the environment for public radio’s State Impact Oklahoma. He says that Oklahoma had been reluctant to acknowledge a link, but now that they have, the state is taking a more cautious approach to fracking.

“Really last spring, so about a year go now, the state … really came together, we’re talking the Geological Survey, the governors office, everybody had really kind of cast off all remaining public doubt about the link,” Wertz says. “Since then the state has really stepped up its regulatory response.”

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– What the survey means
– How Texas is responding to the study
– Which places are most at risk for man-made quakes