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Is Fracking Causing Sinkholes and Earthquakes in Texas?

Texas is prone to plenty of natural disasters — hurricanes, tornadoes and drought among them. But until recently, it didn’t have a lot of earthquakes.

That’s why people in the small town of Azle, outside of Fort Worth, were so shaken when they started feeling quakes in November last year. Since then there have been dozens more quakes strong enough to feel — and hundreds more registered on seismographs.

“I don’t know what the earthquakes in California are like, but these have a boom that comes with it and your windows rattle in your house,” said Alan Brundrett, Azle’s mayor.

A lot of people in town are pointing their fingers at injection wells that are located nearby. They’re wells used to dispose of fracking wastewater.

“It’s been clear that injection wells, when you take this wastewater that’s leftover from fracking, you pump it down into the ground, it is going to lubricate the faults and create more earthquakes. There’s really no question about that,” said Russell Gold, a Wall Street Journal reporter and author of the new book, “The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World.”

But the oil and gas companies operating the well aren’t so sure. XTO Energy, which operates at least one injection well in the area, told Fusion that the cause of the quakes is still unknown and that they support further research. Another company, Devon Energy, said it doesn’t comment on “rumors and speculation” related to the quakes.

That’s little comfort to residents who worry that the quakes could intensify and hope that someone will take responsibility.

“It’s going to be hard to get anybody to admit to anything,” said Brundrett.

Credit: Bradley Blackburn and Joanna Suarez

Is Fracking Causing Sinkholes and Earthquakes in Texas?

Texas is prone to plenty of natural disasters — hurricanes, tornadoes and drought among them. But until recently, it didn’t have a lot of earthquakes.

That’s why people in the small town of Azle, outside of Fort Worth, were so shaken when they started feeling quakes in November last year. Since then there have been dozens more quakes strong enough to feel — and hundreds more registered on seismographs.

“I don’t know what the earthquakes in California are like, but these have a boom that comes with it and your windows rattle in your house,” said Alan Brundrett, Azle’s mayor.

A lot of people in town are pointing their fingers at injection wells that are located nearby. They’re wells used to dispose of fracking wastewater.

“It’s been clear that injection wells, when you take this wastewater that’s leftover from fracking, you pump it down into the ground, it is going to lubricate the faults and create more earthquakes. There’s really no question about that,” said Russell Gold, a Wall Street Journal reporter and author of the new book, “The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World.”

But the oil and gas companies operating the well aren’t so sure. XTO Energy, which operates at least one injection well in the area, told Fusion that the cause of the quakes is still unknown and that they support further research. Another company, Devon Energy, said it doesn’t comment on “rumors and speculation” related to the quakes.

That’s little comfort to residents who worry that the quakes could intensify and hope that someone will take responsibility.

“It’s going to be hard to get anybody to admit to anything,” said Brundrett.

Credit: Bradley Blackburn and Joanna Suarez

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