Fracking: What We Don't Know Could Kill a Goat. Or Give 'Em One Hell of a Nosebleed.

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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Maybe the biggest problem with the fracking issue is that it involves the deadly, mind-numbing and sleep-inducing phrase "parts per billion." Otherwise I might have cracked the case long ago.

Fracking is deep-well drilling for natural gas in which drillers inject water and chemicals into a layer of underground shale to fracture the rock and release trapped natural gas.
Our Patrick Michels got me past the worst of my parts-per-billion-phobia in his very readable and informative March 10 cover-story "Toxic Avenger," a portrait of Al Armendariz, regional chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For another really solid exploration of this issue, with lots of good reporting that gets right around the parts-per-billion barrier, see the series running in the Denton Record-Chronicle called "Citizens of the Shale." (Which, strangely, never appeared in that other local A.H. Belo paper.) These stories, along with Michels's piece, will convince you that fracking is a headache and nosebleed-inducing kill-your-damn-goats matter of urgent concern.

I have written a couple times about fracking, both here and in the paper version of Unfair Park. The industry says it's clean and good for us. Detractors say it's a terrible air polluter, poisons people and causes water taps to catch fire. In this case the truth probably does not lie between the two extremes. It's not like it's a question of one part per billion versus two parts. It's more like your damn goat dies or it doesn't.

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Want to see these in your neighborhood?
In two weeks the Dallas City Council will take up the question. Council member Angela Hunt wants the council the form a commission to see if maybe the city needs to know more about fracking before allowing it inside the city limits and near neighborhoods. Some council members are opposed to the idea, on the principle (and common philosophy at Dallas City Hall) of, "Gee, why know more?"

For that answer, be sure to look at the story, "Hard Work Ahead," by Sarah Perry, in the Record-Chronicle series.

It's a thorough and balanced piece, but, man ... this story also includes some knockout interviews with people who live near fracking operations, like Deborah Rogers in Westworth Village, five miles west of Fort Worth.

Rogers runs an organic farm and raises goats and chickens on 45 acres she inherited from her grandfather. A fracking operation took place on land nearby.

On the fifth day of that operation the drilling company "flared" the well -- burned off extra gas and chemicals. That day a baby chick on Rogers's farm dropped dead in front of her. Then that same day six more chicks died. Then two baby goats died. Then she developed a killer headache and a nosebleed.

State officials told her everything was fine. Not to worry. Sounds great.

After testing her air, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality told Rogers in a letter, "Although two of the reported concentrations and all three of the potential maximum concentrations exceed the TCEQ short-term ESL [effects screening level], we would not expect adverse health effects to result from exposure to these concentrations."

Translation: OK, so you've got some poison floating around in the air and stuff. It's probably not going to kill you.

Her story, by the way, is also treated at some length in Michels' piece, to at least equally devastating effect.

In case after case cited in the Record-Chronicle stories, the TCEQ and the Texas Railroad Commission -- the weird agency supposedly regulating gas drilling in our state and offering two of its commissioners as Kay Bailey's would-be replacements -- come across as a totally whored-out, worthless, collaborationist pieces of crap, which, by the way, is a deliberate understatement on my part, because I'm trying to be polite.

In some of the boondocks areas where fracking is underway, air pollution is far worse than it is in downtown Dallas, which means that, if we get the same levels, all of that new pollution will be on top of what we already have.

I'm just saying. Don't tell me we don't need to know more. Read this series. Read Michels' piece. If we don't find out everything there is to know before this stuff gets going inside the city limits, we can all can bend over, hold on to our parts per billion and prepare to be fracked.


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18 comments
ed
ed

TCEQ is worthy of a book.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Air Pollution ? I will tell you about costly Air pollution . It is right inside our houses .And one day in the future I hope we can all enjoy the savings that will come when the gas companies are able to change the rules so don't have to put that awful smell in Natural Gas ..

Ray
Ray

With the current economic meltdown happening, why do I get the feeling that we are all about to learn a very important morality lesson about our choices?

SteveT
SteveT

When are we going to realize that safe and sane energy exploration and extraction (of fossil fuels, at least) will get more difficult and expensive as we deplete these finite resources? We, the public, must be willing to own this before we can legitimately demand that government agencies do their job of protecting us from private companies (who's primary responsibitlity is to make money for their owners).

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

Let's talk about the gathering pipelines that are being built without people's knowledge. Imminent domain baby. Here they come.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Well Jim, you actually went there and used the magic word. Whore.Try attending an EPA hearing when these folks drive from Louisiana to Oklahoma and tell their horrific stories at a podium. The movie Gasland plays like a kiddie show compared to their sagas. It will change your life in one evening.There are those in Dallas government who know better but refuse to do better. My guess it's easier just to take your ' campaign donation' that arrivea on a regular schedule, and try not to think about it later on while spending that dough in Aruba.Whore is the perfect word.Thank you.

Robert
Robert

The Westworth Village drilling site mentioned is also next door to the Fort Worth Naval Air Station. And there are 4 other well pads in that general vicinity of west Fort Worth/Westworth Village. One is near or on the old Crystal Springs property where Bob Wills, Milton Brown, and Tommy Duncan performed. I guess that property will never be redeveloped now that it's a gas well site.

TimCov
TimCov

I've never understood how mixing ground water with petro-chemicals could ever be a good thing in the long run. But, way to many people only care about short term profits and not long term consequences.

Ray
Ray

That odor is put there so that you can smell it if a leak occurs. That smell saves lives.

Texaspainter
Texaspainter

Yeah, let's talk about what the Councuil of Governments found out last week. Okay, it's this.... Come June 1st , every community in our area is going to have to say hoq tgey will make a contribution to reduce VOC's by 130 tons A DAY. Let's see who's up first to contribute. Belo won't report that, but it happened last Wednesday.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Don't worry. Goodhair's got that eminent domain think covered in his priority list.

Edgar
Edgar

I don't think anyone believes mixing groundwater with petrochemicals is a good thing in either the short run or long run. The question on the groundwater issue is whether fracking can be done with enough assurance that groundwater resources are not being affected.

As for pollution, there are a lot of Unfair Park followers who are dead certain that gas drilling is bad. There are also a lot of people who think opponents of gas drilling are whackos. Few people with strong opinions are scientists. I know there are bad stories out there, but we're ultimately dealing with a scientific issue, and for every reference to Al Amendarez, there's something like this: http://bseec.org/sites/all/pdf...

It's easy to be conflicted. Even though there's an absolutely enormous sample size out there, it seems the jury in the scientific community is still out and probably always will be. Opponents can always point to a bad cases to buttress their position. Proponents can always argue that those incidents are being stripped from their context, and that the factors that led to bad results there have no application here. Whether drilling is environmentally and socially sound will always depend on idiosyncratic features of the context in which the proposed drilling is taking place. We need an ordinance that is simultaneously clear and flexible enough to accommodate drilling where it belongs but prohibit it where it does not. Arguing for years in a vacuum about whether drilling is bad or good ignores the practical realities and won't help us settle on an ordinance.

Nachoman
Nachoman

Ironically that’s exactly what I tell people when Ive got gas.

heavy metal church lady
heavy metal church lady

First thing that needs to happen is that the Cheney Loophole is closed. The one that allows these companies to conceal the chemicals they are using.

Anonymous
Anonymous

At the same point, all of the information in favor of fracking is coming from people who stand to profit from it. I can't figure out financial motives from the people telling everyone to slow down, other than some of the people having homes that are located close to the potential sites who worry about their resale values. Mostly they just seem to worry about the environmental effects. That mismatch bothers me. It's not like the people opposed are being funded by the oil and coal industries so that they face less competition in the future.History tells us that the people who profit now almost certainly won't be the people who pay later if/when something goes wrong. That's why we are suspicious of people who tell us to trust the industry. Personally, I would say to ban it altogether within city limits, but as far as I can tell, that's not even what people like Angela Hunt want. They just want the issue studied so that reasonable restrictions can be put in place. They aren't saying "No, never" they're saying "Let's find the right place and put some safeguards in place, just in case"

JimS
JimS

I have felt for a long time that the government needs to crack down on flatulence. At least I'd like to see the imposition of some kind of attainment goals and possibly the use of Venturi-style scrubbers.It would even help some if people just apologized, especially on airplanes.

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