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They're 'All Shook Up' and They Want the Fracking Wells to Stop

Residents of north Texas communities demand regulatory body put end to injection wells they say are behind spate of earthquakes

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Dozens of north Texas community members bussed to Austin on Tuesday to demand a shutdown of the fracking waste injection wells they say are behind a recent spate of earthquakes.

Their target was a meeting of the three-member Texas Railroad Commission, the state's main regulatory body  for the oil and gas industry.

Residents of Azle and surrounding areas gave complaint after complaint of how the dozens of earthquakes, clustered around Azle and Reno, have damaged their homes and endangered their communities, and said the solution is to shut down the wells.

"We’re afraid this is going to destroy our community and the future of our children here," homeowner Max Smith told NBC outside of the meeting. "We’re making a stand. Something serious is going on here," he added. "We haven’t gotten any assistance from the state."

"The quakes started recently," said Azle-area resident Phil Dawes. "I didn't really think that much about it until I was asleep at midnight. It woke me up. I thought a 747 landed on my roof. It was that bad."

"Is somebody going to help us?" Tracey Napier asked.

Guitar-toting Bill Hoffman rendered his version of Elvis' All Shook Up to make his point about earthquakes hitting Azle.

The commissioners announced they were hiring a seismologist to investigate possible connections.

Also, at the meeting was Lynda Stokes, mayor of Reno, Texas.

"No disrespect, but this isn’t rocket science here. Common sense tells you the wells are playing a big role in all this," Stokes said.

“While you are doing your studies, I would like to ask you to shut these wells down and not make us, the citizens of Azle and Reno, the guinea pigs for the study,” Stokes said.

But some at the RRA were doubtful about possible connections, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:

Milton Rister, executive director of the railroad commission, expressed doubts about whether injection wells were causing the tremors, saying that there are studies “all over the map.” State officials cited other possible causes such as the drought or falling water levels at nearby lakes.

Chairman of the commission Barry Smitherman, who has praised the fracking industry, spoken of "EPA overreach," and whose recent fundraiser for his campaign to be the next state attorney general was hosted by  natural gas utilities, also cited a paper casting doubt on the connection.

Yet even if indisputable evidence was found to link the injection wells and earthquakes, that might not be cause to stop them, as CBS reports:

[G]eneral counsel for the commission Wendell Fowler, said inspectors can only start the two to three month process of shutting down a well if there is polluted water, fluid escaping, a change in conditions or the rules. Seismic activity is not one of the criteria.

NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth has video:

CBS has video as well:


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