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Railroad Commission of Texas sends inspectors to site of historic earthquake

The goal of the commission is to reduce the amount of quakes and to keep residents and the environment safe.

ODESSA, Texas — A 5.3 magnitude earthquake that hit West Texas Wednesday has the Railroad Commission of Texas investigating.

The earthquake, which struck the Mentone area, was big, but not surprising to some experts.

"I guess I'd just have to say this doesn't surprise me very much, even though the magnitude 5.4 that sort of quake doesn't happen too often, I've just seen hundreds of quakes out here, it's an active area," said Don Blake, geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey.

An active area that the railroad commission is now investigating, especially when it comes to disposal wells, a byproduct of fracking.

"There are disposal wells where they are trying to dispose of huge amounts of water down deep," said Sumit Verma, associate professor of geophysics for the University of Texas Permian Basin. "Then that activates the pre-existing faults and that has caused earthquakes."

The railroad commission is reviewing seismic data and might change or update regulations when it comes to some oil and gas operations.

"Certain oil and gas operations have caused some of these swarms of quakes, not necessarily this particular one, maybe this one, but has caused swarms of quakes there, and we saw the same thing in Oklahoma," said Blake. "We had a lot of things going on in Oklahoma, and I think there were a couple of fives as well that turned out to be induced, and they changed their oil and gas operations, and those quakes fell way off and almost went away."

The goal of the commission is to reduce the amount of quakes and to keep residents and the environment safe.

"Over the last few years we've had a lot of little earthquakes in this area," said Blake. "They're generally between magnitude 2 and magnitudes 3 to 3.5, and an awful lot of those are what we call induced earthquakes, and all that means is they're man made."

The RRC also released a statement to NewsWest 9 that can be read below:

"Based on the reviews and meetings with operators, action will be taken on steps outlined in the OLRP. Actions outlined in the plan include, but are not limited to, expanding SRA boundaries and further reducing injection volumes."

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