The Environmental Protection Agency is pointing its finger at the oil and gas industry for causing earthquakes in Texas that could endanger public health.
The agency said "there is a significant possibility" that recent earthquakes in the northern part of the state are associated with the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that is used to extract oil and gas from shale rock deep underground, according to a report it sent to Lone Star State regulators.
The Texas Tribune reported the findings on Monday, citing a copy of an Aug. 15 report that the EPA sent to the state's primary oil and gas regulator. The newspaper reported that the oil and gas industry may be the culprit, "even if state regulators won't say so."
The report is the EPA's annual evaluation of the state's oil and gas industry and the thousands of wells from both fracking and wastewater disposal wells used to hold the leftover water from fracking.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses a mix of water and sand injected deep underground to release the oil and gas deposits from shale rock. The water used in the fracking process is then injected in underground aquifers specifically designed for wastewater disposal. The injection of the wastewater at high pressure, not the actual fracking process, has been blamed for causing earthquakes in several states.
"In light of findings from several researchers, its own analysis of some cases and the fact that earthquakes diminished in some areas following shut-in or reduced injection volume of targeted wells ... EPA believes there is a significant possibility that north Texas earthquake activity is associated with disposal wells," the report said.
The EPA said it is alarmed at the amount of earthquake activity in the Dallas/Forth Worth area and the public health hazard it could create.
"EPA is concerned with the level of seismic activity during 2015 in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area because of the potential to impact public health and the environment, including underground sources of drinking water," according to the EPA.
The Texas Railroad Commission told the newspaper that it "takes the issue of induced seismicity very seriously and has in place some of the most stringent rules on disposal wells."