New Study From Gas Drilling Activists Gathers Decade of Industrial Woes in the Barnett Shale
Produced by the Fort Worth-based Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project, the report's called Flowback, and it gathers up a decade's worth of troubles tied to the natural gas boom around the Barnett Shale, from air pollution and water use to benzene in residents' bloodstreams. Also among the contributors to the report: Jim Schermbeck, Raymond Crawford (as seen in this week's Paper Version of Unfair Park) and Cherelle Blazer.
The report details how scattered rural families, and even entire towns, have asked regulators for help only to be "met with official denial, complacency or bureaucratic inaction," and while much of what's in here won't be news to anyone who's listened in on the Dallas City Council's open mic sessions, it's all a little more intense when you read the stories in one place. Or as the report says, "Too often citizen testimonies of health effects or evidence gathered by citizens, as in this report, are dismissed as anecdotal evidence."
And it's not just about the 10-year natural gas boom in the Barnett, either -- there's plenty more new action in other formations around Texas, like the Eagle Ford Shale around San Antonio, the Haynesville Shale reaching from Louisiana into East Texas, and in counties west of Lubbock, where, the report says, "drilling in an as-yet unnamed shale gas formation [is] expected to begin this summer."
At this point, the group says, the shale rush isn't about to end. (Further evidence: Dallas State Rep. Stefani Carter's new bill that'd prevent local government from keeping oil and gas drillers out of their city limits.) "The challenge for Texas is not whether to allow shale gas and oil production, but how to protect the communities whose lives and landscapes are being transformed by the boom."
Air pollution over Fort Worth, water use -- more an one billion gallons of water in 2009 in a four-county area around the Barnett -- and even lower property values in towns like Argyle and Bartonville.
The report recounts the story of Dish, where residents complain about headaches, nosebleeds and asthma, and where the Texas Department of State Health Services tested 28 residents last year, finding 15 volatile organic compounds at higher-than-normal levels.
The report also includes case individual studies from folks you may have read about elsewhere -- Bob and Lisa Parr, and Tim and Christine Ruggiero in Wise County, and Fort Worth goat dairy owner Deborah Rogers. Their stories are each variations on the troubling themes told earlier in the report: new health problems, slipping property values and a trouble holding drillers accountable for spills and other industrial mishaps.
The group also calls out the state's "woefully inadequate" regulatory system, with a staff that hasn't kept pace with the growth in industry, leaving more than half the rigs in the state uninspected over the last five years.
"The Texas Railroad Commission, long the oil and gas industry's lapdog, must become a watchdog," the group says in the report, suggesting the elected Railroad Commissioners be replaced by an elected Oil and Gas Commission -- something the Texas Senate already voted to do, but that faltered in the House just yesterday.
Here's the full report:
FLOWBACK TX-OGAP Health Report