Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Exploring the Science Behind Man-Made Quakes in Texas

The North Texas towns of Reno and Azle have seen over thirty earthquakes since November, sometimes more than one a day. It’s been unsettling for residents like Barbara Brown.

“Damage to my home, sinkholes on my property. Nerves! And a lot of angst,” she said. “Because you just don’t know when they’re going to happen again.”

And it’s not the only town in the state that’s been hit with tremors. Texas has seen the number of recorded earthquakes increase tenfold since the drilling boom began several years ago. While studies have linked the quakes to oil and gas drilling activities, but state regulators and politicians say the science is far from settled.

So what does the science really say? Take a listen to the radio story:


  • Jeremy Amos

    Over 38 earthquakes have occurred since November near the earthen Eagle Mountain Dam near Fort Worth Texas. Unquestionably, these quakes are related to disposing waste fracking fluids in abandoned wells. This lake contains ten times as much water as Lake Conemaugh that produced the Johnstown flood. With a temporary flow like the Mississippi River, that flood killed 2,200 people and caused $420 million damage.

    If the Eagle Mountain Lake dam fails, Lake Worth downstream can’t hold all that water. It will flood down the West Fork of the Trinity River, swooping 270 degrees
    around downtown Ft Worth, on through Arlington, destroying homes and businesses. Apart from the financial costs, how will we replace the lake that supplies 10% of our community’s water supply?

    The good news is that earthquakes have stopped in places when the disposal of fracking fluid ceased. The bad news is that the Texas Railroad Commission and other government agencies want to protect the profits of their o&g backers more than the lives and property of ordinary citizens living along the river. Contact the Tarrant Region Water District (http://www.trwd.com/ContactUs), and tell them if they don’t take action to stop the quakes, they may eventually be held accountable for 20,000 deaths and for $4 Billion dollars of property damage.

    • Mary VonZastrow

      No one remembers the Johnstown Flood anymore! It was an avoidable tragedy born of hubris which annihilated innocent bystanders and a medium-sized city – people who just happened to be downstream…
      Dam failure is another important facet of the discussion.

  • Mark O. Hammontree

    pressure exerted on the rock from a two mile tall column of water is
    IMMENSE! The water does not just “Keep calm and sit there” at the
    bottom. It DESPERATELY tries to move sideways to get away from the
    incredible pressure pushing down on it. Even the tiniest cracks in the
    rock down there are filled with water under enormous pressure, and the
    rock is hydraulically fractured, and the cracks are widened, and the
    water fills those cracks with the same pressure. The area of intense
    pressure spreads further and further as the water spreads cracks bigger.
    The perfect recipe for spreading polluted water far and wide, AND for
    causing earthquakes when the pressure zone hits a low resistance area
    and shoves a LOT of rock sideways or up or down (or all at once) in a
    very short time. Especially if the pressure collapses the wall of an
    air pocket and the liquid and rock rush in to fill the underground
    bottle of air. That causes a HUGE hammering effect, similar to when you
    shove the bathtub faucet from full on to full off in a split second,
    and the plumbing shakes.

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