The SMU-led seismic study of North Texas revealed that hydraulic fracturing injection wells most likely activated a dormant fault, leaving the town of Azle all shook up. (map: SMU)

The SMU-led seismic study of North Texas revealed that hydraulic fracturing injection wells most likely activated a dormant fault, leaving the town of Azle all shook up. (map: SMU)

Did you feel that earthquake this morning? We definitely did, and it happened just as I was dropping off my preschooler in Lakewood. The tremor, a 2.7 magnitude quake near Farmers Branch according to the United States Geological Survey map, made me wonder if my son’s school was built to withstand a significant earthquake. It’s something we have to start thinking about as our area is shaken physically and mentally by the growing frequency of seismic activity.

Existing structures are one of the biggest challenges earthquake-prone areas face, as many buildings are constructed without the proper seismic reinforcement. Masonry buildings, ones without steel crossbeam or framing, can pose a significant risk to inhabitants. Considering the recent report from SMU linking our recent spate of earthquakes to hydraulic fracturing and injection wells, should North Texas update its building codes and best practices so that more buildings can withstand the tremors?

If you want to be part of the discussion, AIA Dallas will host a panel from noon to 1 p.m. tomorrow at the Dallas Center for Architecture. The panel discussion will feature Jarod Fancher, Assoc. AIA, Barry Beazley, AIA, Bruce W. Rachel, AIA, and Linda Brown, Assoc. AIA. The group will discuss the science surrounding earthquakes, the history and geology of our region, and seismic building design.

Be sure to register in advance, as it will likely fill up.

 

 

Azle News Front Page

Photo: WFAA

Several North Texas homeowners, especially those in Azle and near Eagle Mountain Lake, are concerned that expanded shale gas exploration and hydraulic fracturing may be causing the rash of seismic activity that has these communities all shook up.

To address these concerns, the Texas House Subcommittee on Seismic Activity is holding a hearing today at 1 p.m. The committee, headed by State Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton), will listen to expert testimony on the subject. Here’s what the agenda says:

“Study the current conditions surrounding the increased seismic activity in
the Barnett Shale and other areas of the State. Specifically, review the
possibility that increased exploration and disposal well activity could
impact seismic activity. The committee shall review active oil and gas
activity and injection wells in areas experiencing increased seismic
activity.”

The increased seismic activity has some homeowners worried about their home values, which has many considering updates to their homeowners insurance policies. Earthquakes, much like floods, aren’t usually covered in typical homeowners policies, so if you think your home is at risk for earthquake damage, you might want to read our piece on how fracking-related seismic activity is sending tremors through insurance companies.

Azle News Front Page

 

Photo: WFAA

As Azle residents stormed a meeting of the Texas Railroad Commission yesterday demanding a moratorium on wastewater injection wells used in hydraulic fracturing (AKA fracking), commissioners gave no indication of halting the practice that homeowners blame for the recent spate of earthquakes in their small Tarrant County town. Here’s a quote from Nicholas Sakelaris’ coverage of the hearing:

Many called for the oil and gas companies to be held accountable for the earthquake damages at their homes.

“Contractors don’t build our homes to withstand earthquakes,” one speaker said.

Another speaker said, “We don’t know if there’s any damage to the actual slab on our foundation because we have carpet. But I’m sure there probably is. Who would have ever thought we would need earthquake insurance?”

It’s frustrating for homeowners, who say that the earthquakes have rattled the town for months, causing damage to foundations, leaving cracks in drywall, creating sinkholes, spooking livestock, and disturbing what is often a peaceful and sleepy suburb near Eagle Mountain Lake.

While the commission decided to bring in a seismologist to study the earthquakes that clock in around a 3 on the Richter scale, there is little else they plan to do, leaving Azle residents to wonder how they can protect themselves against the damage these quakes are causing.

Oil Drilling Misgivings

 

Photo: AP

According to an article on insurance underwriter website Property Casualty 360, many insurers have been scared away from offering coverage for properties near fracking wells.

One of the most overlooked facts about fracking is that the process has been used in commercial applications since 1949. Over more than six decades, the U.S. has led the way in developing technology to stabilize and streamline the fracking process.

Yet, of the leading insurance companies, only a select few have begun underwriting oil- and gas-drilling-related risks. This slow adoption has led to a shortage of capacity in the oil- and gas-drilling insurance market, strangling investors’ appetites for risk and artificially slowing the rate of growth.

Why aren’t more insurers offering coverage for fracking risks? There’s a range of reasons, but what most insurers do not understand is that fracking is no different than other highly specialized, highly technical industries. Insurers have the opportunity to provide risk management and safety techniques that will help ensure the implementation of best practices and ultimately control claims costs.

If you’re depending on your homeowners policy to take care of your home following an earthquake, think again. Earthquakes, much like floods, aren’t covered. However, because earthquakes tend to be rare in Texas, coverage for earthquake-related damage is a relatively inexpensive add-on to most homeowners policies according to the Texas Department of Insurance. It has yet to be seen, though, if coverage rates in areas near fracking sites such as Azle will be more expensive.

Have you considered buying earthquake coverage for your North Texas home?