On Tuesday, the Texas Railroad Commission (Commission) adopted several amendments to the current rules governing disposal wells. The Commission circulated an earlier version of the amendments in August; however, the Commission made slight variations to the amendments based on several comments it received during the public comment period. The revised amendments are set to become effective on November 17th.
Under the amendments, an applicant for a disposal well must examine the United States Geological Survey seismic database to determine if earthquakes have occurred in the vicinity of the drilling location. In addition, the Commission is now authorized to change, cancel, or suspend any permit if information arises suggesting that the well may lead to an earthquake. Under some circumstances, the Commission may also require well operators to report the annual volumes and pressures associated with particular wells.
The amendments are largely in response to public concern that drilling may be linked to seismic activity. Indeed, the purpose of these amendments is to decrease the likelihood of earthquakes. Nonetheless, the Commission has also expressed a desire to not unduly hamper the development of natural resources in the state. The Commission plans to continue its study of the alleged connection between drilling and seismic activity.