Oil & gas pollution near Balmorhea State Park demonstrates Apache’s empty promises, need for public oversight

Regulatory complaint filed based on infrared footage of Cheyenne facility near world famous San Solomon Springs

Today Earthworks released a new optical gas imaging video revealing that from March 9-11, Apache’s new Cheyenne Central Processing Facility four miles from the town of Balmorhea was continuously polluting the air with methane and health-harming volatile organic compounds. OnMarch 10th, Earthworks filed a formal regulatory complaint with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality because of the intense and ongoing nature of the pollution.

“Apache promised to protect the area around the Balmorhea State Park and McDonald Observatory,” said Earthworks’ ITC-certified thermographer and senior Texas organizer Sharon Wilson. She continued, “These videos prove they’ve broken their promise. In doing so, Apache threatens the community’s health, the sky’s clarity, and the region’s economic engines, not to mention everyone’s climate.”

The optical gas imaging videos of Apache’s pollution, taken March 9th, 10th, and 11th were captured as part of Earthworks’ Community Empowerment Project (CEP).  CEP helps protect communities and the climate by making visible normally invisible air pollution from oil and gas production, and pressuring regulators and companies to reduce that pollution. In the past four years, CEP has documented and made publicly available over 500 incidents of oil and gas related air pollution in 16 states, Mexico and Canada.

The Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) GF320 optical gas imaging camera is calibrated, and third party laboratory verified, to detect up to 20 health and climate harming volatile organic compounds associated with oil and gas production including methane, a pollutant 86 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide over 20 years and benzene, a known carcinogen. These pollutants are also precursors to ozone smog.  Nearby residents have reported health symptoms that the Centers for Disease Control reports may develop in people exposed to pollutants the camera detects. In response to Earthworks’ complaint, Earthworks expects TCEQ to conduct a thorough and public investigation that determines:

  • what happened,
  • which pollutants have been released,
  • what steps TCEQ and Apache will take to prevent further such releases.

“I started suffering from nosebleeds and impaired breathing after oil and gas facilities were built near my home and work. I hope TCEQ gets out here and forces Apache to clean up its act. They clearly aren’t going to do it themselves, no matter what they say. ” said Sue Franklin, owner of the Balmorhea Rock Shop.

The  FLIR GF320 camera is the same model that regulators and oil and gas operators nationwide use to detect and document pollution at oil and gas facilities. Earthworks’ thermographers arecertified by the same body that certifies regulators and industry.


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