Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Mayor at Center of Texas Quake Swarm Wants Disposal Wells Suspended

Lynda Stokes is the mayor of Reno in Parker County, where more than 30 earthquakes have been recorded since November.

Doualy Xaykaothao / KERA News

Lynda Stokes is the mayor of Reno in Parker County, where more than 30 earthquakes have been recorded since November.

The mayor of one of the small towns at the center of Texas’ latest earthquake swarm traveled to Austin last week to speak to oil and gas regulators. While Lynda Stokes, the mayor of Reno, Texas, didn’t get any answers from the Railroad Commission of Texas (which oversees drilling in the state), she did get a chance to have her voice — along with those of many other residents from the region — heard.

“Nowhere in my wildest dreams did I believe that here in Reno, Texas, we would have earthquakes,” Stokes tells Dallas’ KERA News. Her area of Texas has seen over thirty quakes, the largest a magnitude 3.6, since November. “They feel like you’re living right next to the freeway and a big truck just came rumbling through your living room.”

KERA’s Vice President of News, Rick Holter, talked to Stokes about the quakes and what could happen next, including the possibility of a city ordinance to ban disposal wells, which are believed to be behind the quakes. Take a listen to the interview:

Stokes and others called on the Railroad Commission to immediately suspend operations at the disposal wells in the area.

Two of those disposal wells are located at the center of many of the quakes. But the commission demurred at citizens’ requests to suspend the wells, saying under current rules it does not have the authority to shut down a disposal well for causing earthquakes.

One of Stokes’ constituents lives across the street from a disposal well, which are believed to be behind the quakes. Every day, trucks unload wastewater from oil and gas drilling at those wells, where it is then sent deep underground for disposal. “He said about every fifth truck we seem to have an earthquake,” Stokes says. A recent 3.6 earthquake cracked all of the commodes in his home. Disposal wells have been the culprit in other earthquake swarms in Texas and other states like Ohio and Oklahoma, where the wastewater has caused faults to slip, triggering quakes.

Stokes is no stranger to quakes. When she was younger she lived in California. But Texas is different. “As I tried to tell the Railroad Commission, we are not earthquake country,” Stokes says. “Our buildings are not built to earthquake specs. Therefore, a 3.0 [quake[ in California is a walk in the park. But a 3.0 [quake], one right after the other, will do real damage here.”

Further Reading: How Oil and Gas Disposal Wells Can Cause Earthquakes


About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »