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Commission Can’t Shake Azle Residents’ Resolve

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jason Allen
Jason came to North Texas after working as a reporter for four y...
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AZLE (CBSDFW.COM) - As the sun set Wednesday, a tank truck dumped a load at a disposal well for gas drilling waste in far north Parker County. It’s the one thing dozens of residents in the area, living through a swarm of earthquakes, hoped they wouldn’t see for a while. Their efforts to shake a state agency into shutting the wells down though, didn’t get that result.

Residents who believe the wells are connected to more than 30 quakes since November spent the day regrouping. The Railroad Commission of Texas told them Tuesday it had no jurisdiction to take action against the wells, because of earthquakes. The wells are just down the road, less than a couple miles, from where new data shows a majority of the quakes have been clustered. It is mostly rural land, with a few homes on what used to be steady ground.

“I was thinking that in a perfect world they would have come back in and said ‘you’re right, we’ll shut down the well,’” said Lynda Stokes, mayor in Reno, the closest town to the quakes. “They kind of told us that we didn’t know what we were talking about. We do.”

Stokes said people were more charged up, than disheartened after the commission’s decision to do more studies before acting. They were going back to state codes, and digging through commission rules, trying to see if the RRC’s position that it could not use seismicity (the frequency or magnitude of earthquake activity in a given area) as a reason to shut down wells was true.

Some people pointed to a section on the commission website with frequently asked questions about wells, which says: “Commission regulations require injection be confined to a permitted interval, and if faults, stratigraphy, or any other geologic phenomena are identified as a concern, they are evaluated. In addition, Commission staff could suspend or terminate a permit if science and data indicated a problem.”

A spokesperson for the RRC explained that only applied as it related to water pollution, something that is within the RRC’s jurisdiction.

Despite this, Stokes said her constituents aren’t giving up.

“The longer you let us sit, we’ll be a little bit more like a thorn that just festers up.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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