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  • Ryan Wittler

Texas is Restricting a Common Fracking Practice Because It Keeps Causing Earthquakes

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Last week, the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC), the state’s oil and gas regulator, sent a notice to operators announcing it was halting new permits for wastewater injection from fracking. It also requested 76 existing permit-holding wells to reduce their daily injections.

According to the RRC, it made the decision due to an increase in the number of earthquakes since February 2020, saying the injection of wastewater deep into the ground “likely contributes to seismic activity” in the area.

What is it?

According to Vice, wastewater injection from fracking is basically just what it sounds like, when oil and gas operators shoot contaminated wastewater used in the fracking process deep underground, where it’s meant to stay forever. It’s a sketchy process and has become commonplace in Texas.

Why it’s bad:

The problem, according to scientists (and common sense) is that shooting water at high pressures deep underground (sometimes miles) can destabilize things, sometimes leading to water hitting fault lines, counteracting the natural friction between tectonic plates and causing them to slip and generate so-called “frackquakes.”

So, it was an interesting choice by the RRC to use the word “likely” in the notice, seeing as scientists in the state have connected earthquakes to wastewater injection as far back as 2013, when a team from Southern Methodist University published a study linking a string of Texas earthquakes to wastewater injection.

Just for fun: that same year, California produced 2,145 megawatts of power from solar, enough for around 2 million homes, all while causing no earthquakes.

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