Industry Continues To Deny Connection To North Texas Quakes Despite New Evidence

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Scientists have uncovered more evidence that the last several years of North Texas earthquakes may be man made, but energy trade groups contends any conclusion implicating industry is “premature.”

SMU seismologist Beatrice Magnani suggested that industry activity had awaken ancient dormant faults around 2008 when earthquakes began to be felt.

Those faults are dead, and they have just been rejuvenated. That is the most reasonable conclusion,” said Magnani, referring to the faults beneath North Texas.

These new findings are a follow-up from earlier SMU research linking a series of quakes to injection wells, one of which was operated by XTO, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil. According to the Dallas Morning News a spokesperson for XTO has denied a connection.

That response is in keeping with Exxon’s denial of climate change even though they were aware of its effects as early as 1981. News broke earlier this year that the company had been hiding its own findings. From the UK Guardian article:


However, Exxon’s public position was marked by continued refusal to acknowledge the dangers of climate change, even in
response to appeals from the Rockefellers, its founding family, and its continued financial support for climate denial. Over the years, Exxon spent more than $30m on think tanks and researchers that promoted climate denial, according to Greenpeace.

Exxon said on Wednesday that it now acknowledges the risk of climate change and does not fund climate change denial groups.

Some climate campaigners have likened the industry to the conduct of the tobacco industry which for decades resisted the evidence that smoking causes cancer.

Exxon may not fund climate denial groups, but its subsidiary XTO has pulled from its old playbook. They are behind the industry trade group “Independent Petroleum Association of America,” who is questioning the scientific connection linking the oil and gas industry to the quakes.  According to a report by PR Watch, “another corporation whose funding helped launch IPAA/EID is XTO Energy, which became a subsidiary of ExxonMobil in 2010.”

In the Dallas Morning News report Steve Everley, a senior advisor for Energy In Depth which is a project of IPAA, said  “Any discussion of causation for the Dallas-area quakes is premature, and more speculative than scientific,”

That industry’s version of pleading the 5th. According to another report by Huffington Post:


Here is how Energy In Depth describes itself on its ‘Contact Us’ page:

“Energy In Depth is a project of America’s small, independent oil and natural gas producers…”

While EID prefers to project this ‘mom and pop shop’ image, the June 2009 memo authored by Barry Russell, president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), reveals the seed funding provided by many of the world’s largest oil and gas companies for the creation of Energy In Depth.

The memo states:

The “Energy In Depth” project would not be possible without the early financial commitments of: El Paso Corporation, XTO Energy, Occidental Petroleum, BP, Anadarko, Marathon, EnCana, Chevron, Talisman, Shell, API, IPAA, Halliburton, Schlumberger and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

 

Even Texas’ industry-friendly oil and gas regulator, the Texas Railroad Commission, wouldn’t rule out industry activity and as a contributor to the recent major uptick in seismic activity, saying that they weren’t, “solely the result of natural tectonic processes.” And to the North Oklahoma has gone much further than acknowledging a potential connection, the state appointed their first ever Office of the Secretary of Energy and Environment to help, “develop and advance policies that encourage energy exploration and production as well as responsible environmental stewardship throughout Oklahoma.” Secretary Teague, an Iraq war veteran and operations analysis master’s graduate of the Naval War College, states on his agencies website “Earthquakes in Oklahoma” that, “in Oklahoma right now, we have a problem with earthquakes.” He continues, “from 2013 to 2014 we have a 5 fold increase in the number of earthquakes a magnitude of 3.0 or above, that increase can not be explained by natural causes alone.” 

Everley, the senior advisor for EID, is also a spokesperson for the industry-backed group North Texans for Natural Gas, and though he can’t draw a conclusion that his industry is causing quakes, he is ecstatic at the news that the state’s natural gas reserves are significantly larger than first expected.

Even as the prices for oil and gas drop and solar and wind power become more competitive, regulators, homeowners, and businesses must mind their own self-interest, and not trust an industry to police itself that has proven it will look the other way when science point their finger.

Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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