Eagle Ford Shale: The Dark Side of the Boom tour

June 15, 2011 • Sharon Wilson

Despite my dislike of predawn hours, I met Calvin Tillman, former mayor of Dish, TX, in the parking lot Friday morning and we were loaded and rolling by 6:30 AM, south bound, on the "Dark Side of the Boom" Eagle Ford Shale (EFS) tour. Unfortunately, Tim Ruggiero had to cancel at the last minute.

Just south of Waco the air seemed clearer and air flowed in and out my nose for a change. But that feeling didn't last long. We saw the first man-camps and flares just south of San Antonio and the familiar layer of ground level ozone obscured the far horizon.

Dozens of man-camps dot the sides of the roads. Many of the man-camps use of the same type FEMA trailers that were used after Katrina. What's a little formaldehyde to roughnecks who work with dangerous chemicals all day long?

We rolled into Laredo about 2:30 PM and thanks to Trisha Cortez, Safe Fracking Coalition, found a wonderful place to eat some fresh Tex-Mex. I can't remember the name but the restaurant sits right on the intersection after you take exit 2. It's a fast food place but they make everything fresh including the corn tortillas right there. YUM!

The Town Hall meeting was held at the beautiful UTHSC-SA Laredo extension campus. Featured speakers were Robert Mace, Deputy Executive Administrator, Texas Water Development Board; Gil Bujano, Assistant Director, Railroad Commission of Texas, Calvin Tillman, former Mayor of Dish, and me.

Where do you think the fracking sand comes from?

May 23, 2011 • Sharon Wilson

Just when you thought you had learned all the dirty secrets of the shale drilling debacle, here comes something new. It took a while, but you finally figured out that the landman s depiction of two tanks sitting in a green field with flowers all around was far from accurate. You learned about the multiple tanks, diesel fumes, noise, bright lights, constant truck traffic, noxious odors, massive pipelines, injection wells, landfarms, waste pits, frack pits, compressor stations, tank farms, water depletion, water contamination, spills, processing plants, nose bleeds, royalty checks that never came, rashes, illegal dumping and etc. But there s more and if you live in North Texas, you should pay close attention.

The sand used for hydraulic fracturing has to be mined and that can be quite a destructive process. Sometimes, as is the case in the Ozarks, it requires mountain top removal. Other times they have to dredge the rivers, or they just dig the sand.

Here are some of the environmental concerns from frack sand mining. Thanks to Friends of the Rivers.

If you live in the gas patch, you might have a dirty mind

May 20, 2011 • Sharon Wilson

It is well known that breathing toxic gas patch air is hard on our hearts and lungs now a new study shows it also gives us dirty minds.

 

Children who live in areas with air pollution show brain lesions in the prefrontal cortex of their brains that are similar to people who have dementia and Alzheimer s. They also show signs of cognitive impairments in memory, problem solving and judgment and deficiencies in their sense of smell.

 

In Mexico City, an 11-year-old girl named Ana who has an IQ of 113, which is above-average, also has persistent, growing brain lesions. Ana was one of 54 children who participated in the Mexico City study. Autopsies of healthy children who died in accidents showed proteins that are known hallmarks of Alzheimer s and Parkinson s diseases.

 

Another study of 200 10-year- olds in Boston found that higher airborne concentrations of soot meant lower IQs and poorer memories.

 

Researchers believe nonoparticles--tiny particles in smog, carbon, metals, solvents and other reactive gases-travel through the nose and into the brain where they cause inflammation.

 

HB 3328 TX disclosure bill all bark no bite

May 11, 2011 • Sharon Wilson

Industry claims they can water down the millions of gallons of toxic chemicals in frack fluid until they are harmless.

I guess the Texas Legislature thinks watering down also works with disclosure bills. The much touted HB 3328 Texas Disclosure bill that was supposed to set some kind of national standard is now so watered down that no one but industry will mistake it for setting any kind of national precedent.

There is a lot of hype going through the internet today with calls from some environmental groups asking members to call in support of this bill. but, an Inside EPA article by Bridget DiCosmo calls it a gutting (subscription required, excerpts follow).

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The Dark Side of the Boom: How Natural Gas Drilling in Texas Threatens Public Health and Safety

April 15, 2011 • Sharon Wilson

UPDATE: news coverage

Texas has long been the capital of the U.S. oil and and gas industry. But the U.S. natural gas boom has brought a new wave of drilling activity to the state, with thousands of drilling rigs and production facilities puncturing the landscape of the region around Fort Worth, known as the Barnett Shale. The new boom and the state s industry-friendly regulatory system mean that Texas is failing to protect residents from the hazards of gas drilling and production.

That s what the Texas Oil & Gas Accountability says in a new report, Flowback: How the Texas Natural Gas Boom Affects Health and Safety. The report, available online at bit.ly/TXOGAP-flowback, finds that authorities either lack the resources to deal with the air pollution, water contamination and other problems that accompany natural gas production; are limited in their response by inadequate laws and regulations; or continue in the long Texas tradition of favoring the oil and gas industry at the expense of citizens.

Texas hydraulic fracturing disclosure bill is inadequate

March 24, 2011 • Sharon Wilson

State Rep. Jim Keffer of Eastland, chair of the Texas House Committee on Energy Resources, last week introduced a bill to require limited disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells. Since Texas currently has no disclosure requirements, we d like to be able to say HB 3328 is a step forward but we can t.

Why? Because, as Jim Hightower says, The water won t clear up until we get the hogs out of the creek.

The hogs in this instance are the oil and gas industry, which helped write the bill. Unsurprisingly, it does little to protect Texans right to know about chemicals that may contaminate their drinking water, but bends over backwards to protect the industry s interest in keeping its fracking formulas secret. The bill appears to be written largely from the perspective of industry and without much consideration for the landowners whose problems it is ostensibly trying to solve.

Range Resources tries to wish its pollution away

January 6, 2011 • Sharon Wilson

Range Resources lives in an alternate universe where saying something makes it true no matter the facts. Range wrote a letter where they claim the EPA met with them and agreed that they were not responsible for the garden hose turned flamethrower in Parker County. Okay, I ll play: if saying something makes it true, then I m a ballerina.

The EPA was clear when they gave Texans an early Christmas present by issuing an emergency order to protect families in southern Parker County, Texas, west of Fort Worth in the Barnett Shale gas field. The EPA would not take this action lightly, especially in Texas. Their investigation was thorough and included isotopic fingerprinting and a detailed timeline where the finger points directly at Range Resources.

After four months of investigating, the Texas Railroad Commission couldn t say how the gas got in the well water. It took the EPA two months of investigating to determine Range was responsible. But Gene Powell an industry apologist who writes the Powell Barnett Newsletter that even industry calls pro-industry did a quickie investigation and figured it all out in just five days!

EPA’s Xmas present to Texas families with drinking water polluted by drilling: cleaner water

December 21, 2010 • Sharon Wilson

Three weeks before Christmas, the U.S. EPA issued an emergency order to protect families in southern Parker County, Texas, west of Fort Worth in the Barnett Shale gas field. Two residents living near gas wells had flammable, fizzy and bubbling water (video) and EPA testing determined that nearby Range Resources wells had either caused or contributed to the contamination. The order said: EPA testing has confirmed that extremely high levels of methane in their water pose an imminent and substantial risk of explosion or fire.

For four months prior, the Texas Railroad Commission knew of the situation but hemmed and hawed, testing and retesting but failing to take any action. Yet when EPA stepped in, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones called the action premature. Commissioner Michael Williams said EPA s action was nothing more than grandstanding in an effort to interject the federal government into Texas business. Only in Texas where citizens are held prisoners to the cry of states rights by our Kabuki governor who regularly demonizes the EPA and who never met a polluter he didn t like could an action to protect citizens be called political grandstanding by a professional political grandstander.

The EPA s action is generating much scurrying about by industry and industry apologists looking for anything to blame -- anything, that is, but drilling and fracking. Their quest for a scapegoat is producing some useful information.