Skip to main content

Railroad Commission Hopeful Calls for Disposal Well Shutdown

Steve Brown, a Democrat running for railroad commissioner, has proposed a plan to address the earthquakes rattling North Texas: Shut down the area's oil and gas injection wells.

Kaylen Holmesly, a 7th grade resident of Azle, Texas, testifies before the Texas Railroad Commission and voiced her concern …

Steve Brown, a Democrat running for railroad commissioner, has a plan to address the earthquakes rattling North Texas: Shut down the area's oil and gas waste injection wells. 

He made the proposal Tuesday, after Parker County residents, who packed a Railroad Commission meeting, demanded that the agency tighten oversight of waste injection, which research has tied to mild earthquakes.

"I applaud the residents of Parker County for making the trip to Austin today to voice their concerns over the earthquakes in and around Azle. I join them in calling for a temporary suspension of injection well operations in their area until we know the cause of the earthquakes," Brown said in a statement. "The commission needs to fundamentally reform the agency's culture to ensure that citizens aren't left out of the decision making process, a process that directly impacts their homes and lives. They must strike a better balance between landowners and industry growth."

Since November, nearly three dozen mild quakes have hit North Texas, with most centered around Azle, stirring angst about property damage and safety issues. Though scientists have long known that injecting fluid deep underground can trigger earthquakes, the Railroad Commission says it needs needs more proof of a link. 

After hosting a testy meeting in Azle this month, the commission announced it would hire a seismologist to study the issue.

Shutting down quake-linked disposal wells is rare, but not unheard of. Arkansas has done it. In Texas, Chesapeake Energy voluntarily shut down a disposal well at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport following the region’s quakes in 2009, though the company said research on the issue was not settled. 

Rarer is a Democrat nabbing a spot on the Railroad Commission, which hasn't housed one in 19 years.

In his primary, Brown, the former chairman of the Fort Bend County Democrats, faces Dale Henry, who has a background in research and development for the oil and gas industry. 

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

Quality journalism doesn't come free

Yes, I'll donate today