Earthquakes in North Texas have begun to shake up Texas regulators.
According to Jim Malewitz for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Texas Railroad Commission adopted new, tighter regulations for wells used to dispose of oilfield waste. Recent studies have connected waste disposal to earthquakes with epicenters near the disposal sites. The vote to adopt the new rules was unanimous amongst the three members of the commission.
The new regulations would require companies wishing to drill disposal wells to submit added research with their applications, including past records of earthquakes in the area. The commission would also be able to, at any point, interfere with injections and require disclosure of injection volumes at problematic disposal sites.
The new regulations have the support of the Environmental Protection Agency, and they seem to have come just in time. The number of disposal wells—already at some 3,600 in the state—increases exponentially each year. In 2013, the number of approved permits—668 in total—was nearly double what it was four years before. Even the Texas Oil and Gas Association has applauded the regulations and the Railroad Commission’s efforts to minimize earthquakes in the state.
Commissioner David Porter did note that the rules could need amendments in the future, but that they were a step in the right direction. As more seismological research was done, it is possible that further regulations could be added to ensure a safe environment for Texans.