Texas RRC examiners: XTO well not clearly linked to quakes

AUSTIN – Oil industry activity at a closely scrutinized well has not been shown to cause earthquakes, Texas investigators say in their first opinion on an important test case.

A proposed order, issued late Monday by examiners for the state Railroad Commission, recommends upholding a disposal well permit held by XTO, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil. The examiners have yet to issue a proposed order on a twin case involving a well operated by Enervest of Houston.

Though the recommendation awaits approval by the commissioners, it sets guidance on one of the most contentious issues to emerge from the oil and gas boom. A long series of quakes, some measuring above Richter 3.0, have repeatedly struck areas of significant oil industry operations, especially in the Barnett Shale of North Texas.

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