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Railroad Commission of Texas Appoints UTEP Professor As Seismologist

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The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) announced that Aaron Velasco, Ph.D., will serve the agency as RRC seismologist. Velasco is a professor of geological sciences and director of interdisciplinary initiatives at The University of Texas at El Paso.

Velasco was appointed to the post after a nationwide search.

“Dr. Velasco’s expertise in seismology and geology will enable him to contribute unique and valuable perspectives to the work of the Railroad Commission of Texas,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “In addition to their teaching and research, UTEP faculty members like Dr. Velasco help inform public policy issues at local, state, and national levels and validate UTEP’s growing reputation as a public research university.” 

As the RRC’s seismologist, Velasco will serve on the Governor’s Technical Advisory Committee for the TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program run by TheUniversity of Texas at Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology. He also will work with RRC staff in reviewing disposal well permit applications in areas of historic seismicity to ensure proper requirements are in place to prevent or minimize the potential for induced seismic activity.

“The Railroad Commission is considered a global leader in energy regulation, and I’m honored and humbled to serve my fellow Texans and this historic agency as RRC seismologist,” Velasco said. “I share the agency’s mission to protect public safety and the environment, and I will do that by putting my years of experience and research in seismology and understanding to work for Texas.”

Velasco also will serve in an advisory capacity to the RRC on issues and policy related to seismicity and energy production in Texas. He will continue to work as an educator and researcher at UTEP.

“The Department of Geological Sciences is happy and proud to see Dr. Velasco take on the role of RRC seismologist,” said Department Chair James Kubicki, Ph.D. “We know that Aaron’s expertise and diligent work ethic will serve the State of Texas well while raising the profile of The University of Texas at El Paso in this arena.”

Velasco earned his Bachelor of Science in applied geophysics from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1988 and his doctoral degree in geophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1993. He joined UTEP as a faculty member in 2002. Prior to coming to El Paso, Velasco held various technical and research positions, including work at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. 

Through his career, Velasco's research has spanned a variety of seismological subjects, including earthquake source modeling, seismotectonics, earthquake hazards, and nuclear treaty monitoring research (seismic event detection, location and discrimination). He has also studied hydroacoustic wave propagation and explored military applications of seismology.

Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. The commission regulates the state’s oil and gas industry and also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines.