Recent revelations that Barnett Shale residents' health at
risk prods TCEQ to adopt new oil & gas policy
EARTHWORKS * Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project * Town of DISH
DISH, Texas, 12/18 — In response to recently revealed health impacts in the DISH area, today, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) acknowledged the need for new protections for citizens living in and around the Barnett Shale gas deposit. TCEQ stated it is now issuing an important change in odor response procedures. New policies will require TCEQ to respond to odor complaints on the same day as the complaint, or within 12-hours from receiving a complaint. The new procedure will enable citizens to document both odor and health symptom information by affidavit. These changes represent an important step-forward for the local governments and citizens working to mitigate irresponsible shale gas drilling.
In recent months, a mega-complex of compressor stations, gas processing plant, metering stations and gas wells located in the community of DISH have become a lightening rod for regulators. After years of emission problems and inaction from regulators, local leader, Mayor Calvin Tillman commissioned an area-air study that revealed toxic emissions exceeding regulatory limits in DISH and residents and a former resident have reported significant health symptoms.
The TCEQ decision comes just days after a contentious public meeting in DISH, in which citizens and public interest groups voiced concerns to the TCEQ about public health, property values and pollution. It also comes on the heels of a community-based health study released yesterday by EARTHWOKRS and the Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project. The Town of DISH and the groups have been calling on state regulators to establish a same-day community odor and tracking system, quickly perform an in-depth health investigation, and implement continuous 24-hour emissions monitoring.
“This is a step in the right direction,” said Calvin Tillman, Mayor of DISH. . “Same-day response on odors will indeed help DISH residents on a daily basis. We can't lose sight, however, that companies and regulators need to prevent pollution in the first place. I'm not going to be totally satisfied until the people of the Barnett Shale stop smelling these odors in the first place.” In the last month, Mayor Tillman sent a letter to area companies requesting that they cease their operations until they could operate without putting public health at risk.
“It's important that we get a handle on health impacts and oil and gas development,” says Wilma Subra, author of the Earthworks' health study. “Odors are only part of the overall emissions equation, but they are an important part because residents are smelling emissions and experiencing immediate health impacts that are obviously associated.”
“There is a long road ahead of us and broader action across multiple agencies is necessary to prevent pollution from shale gas development,” said Jennifer Goldman of EARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “Ensuring same-day odor-response and tracking of associated health symptoms is critical, and it is indeed a victory for all residents living with the impacts of the Barnett Shale.”
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