AUSTIN – As the earth beneath an oil field in the northern part of the state continues to rumble with low-magnitude seismic activity, new rules proposed for industry wastewater disposal may help prevent more dangerous earthquakes, a seismologist hired by the state told lawmakers at a hearing on Monday.
“The rules as they exist today were written to protect our groundwater resources,” said the seismologist, Craig Pearson. “Because we’re now dealing with the new seismicity, we’ve got to worry about not just waters moving up, but waters moving out to faults, old, dormant faults, perhaps, and especially those faults that are associated with the basement rock.”
The proposed rules would require companies seeking a wastewater well permit to submit more information about the seismic history of their site and the underground pressure the water will cause. The rules would also give the Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, more explicit authority to modify permits and monitoring requirements.
The commission will take public comment on the proposed rules until September 29, officials said.
The lawmakers who heard the testimony on Monday, members of a subcommittee on seismic activity, will report their findings to the House Committee on Energy Resources, which oversees the work of the commission.