A. Lee Graham
Unexplained earthquake activity has prompted the Railroad Commission of Texas to hire a seismologist.
“My objective is to develop a broad understanding of the impact of oil and gas extraction activities on the day-to-day lives of Texas residents,” said David Craig Pearson, a former team leader for a Los Alamos National Laboratory seismic field team, who holds a doctorate in geophysics from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
“I believe the Railroad Commission must be able to quickly and factually determine the accurate location of all earthquakes in the state and be able to determine the cause of earthquakes, be they natural or man-made,” Pearson said.
“I plan to work to help clarify the root cause of earthquakes occurring by bringing all stakeholders’ concerns, questions, ideas and insights together to identify the best possible solutions,” Pearson said.
Speculation has mounted in recent months that saltwater disposal wells on natural gas drilling sites may be triggering the earthquakes.
“With more than 34,000 of these wells currently operating in Texas, it is important that sound science be our guide in determining if there are any links to seismic activity,” said Commissioner Christi Craddick.
“I welcome Dr. Pearson’s expertise to help us work on these issues,” Craddick said.
As the commission’s in-house seismologist, Pearson is expected to 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.
Pearson’s duties will include coordinating with other academic experts studying seismic events in Texas; obtaining, studying and interpreting various forms of data to evaluate seismic activity associated with known faults and historic and-or ongoing oil and gas exploration and production activities; leading efforts to conduct research as well as internally integrate oil and gas science with seismic science; coordinating communications and information gathering with stakeholders; reviewing, analyzing, interpreting and commenting on technical data from seismic data sources, computer models and digital maps; and developing recommendations and action plans.