The Texas Railroad Commission announced that it would hire an in-house seismologist to investigate the possible link of oil and gas activity to seismic events. In a January 7, 2014 statement, the Railroad Commission said that the seismologist “will allow the Commission to strengthen its ability to follow new research, as well as coordinate an exchange of factual, scientific information with the research community.”
Despite its name, the Texas Railroad Commission no longer has any regulatory authority relating to the rail industry. It exercises extensive authority of the Texas oil and gas industry, dating back to 1917 when the Texas Legislature declared oil pipelines to be common carriers, and placed them under Railroad Commission authority. Today, the Railroad Commission regulates oil and gas production, pipelines, alternative fuels, and surface mining.
Some have suggested that the practice of hydraulic fracturing and/or the subsurface disposal of fluids from oil and gas production have led to small earthquakes or other seismic activity. This development indicates that the Railroad Commission wants to be an important voice, both in Texas and perhaps nationally, regarding what regulation, if any, is appropriate regarding possible seismic activity.
For a copy of the Railroad Commission’s statement click here.