Gas Drilling Task Force Mulls Over Possibility of Injection Wells For Frack Water Disposal

Categories: The Environment

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Injection wells, like most aspects of gas drilling, elicit conflicting opinions, contradictory data and the frequent, familiar demand: "Not in my backyard!". While the wells used for the disposal of produced fracking water are not currently allowed within Dallas city limits, the issue prompted a particularly lengthy debate at yesterday's gas drilling task force meeting.

"Are we OK with prohibiting salt-water disposal wells in the city limits?" task force chair Lois Finkelman asked the group. The reason she asked: Finkelman has compiled her own list of recommendations to the task force, in order to expedite slow-going proceedings that were scheduled to wrap this month. Among the recommendations made in her "Strawman Draft" are these few words, copied from the current city ordinance: "Salt-water disposal wells are prohibited." Turns out, everyone wasn't ok with that.

"I don't understand ... I don't know why, if it's safe, we would prohibit it necessarily," said task force member Patrick Shaw, and oil-and-gas attorney. David Biegler, chairman and CEO of Southcross Energey, added that trucking fracking water to disposal sites outside city limits, which would be the only other viable alternative, "doesn't make any sense."

Finkelman asked David Cossum, assistant director of Sustainable Development and Construction, why it was included in the ordinance in the first place. He said it was in step with several surrounding cities' ordinances, and that disposal wells could also attract truck traffic from other cities. "The economics of it would probably be that you would want to take waste from other facilities," he said.

Task force members mentioned restricting the use of a disposal well for pad sites approved within the city.

"I'm a little torn about this one," said Ramon Alvarez of the Environmental Defense Fund. "I see the value of having salt-water disposal sites ... but there are also risks associated. It seems like this is a little above the charge." He suggested leaving this big decision to the city council -- since, after all, they're the "gas drilling" task force, not the "disposal" task force. "It's sort of a whole other can of worms."

Biegler disagreed: "This is part and parcel to everything we do."

Finkelman said, well, they can't just "shove it aside," and raised concerns about reports linking disposal wells to earthquakes.

"Everything we've said is 100 percent as applicable to pumping into a well as pumping out of a well," Biegler said, suggesting the task force allow disposal wells but subject them to the same rules as any other gas well. After about a half-hour of conversation, Finkelman tabled the issue for discussion next week, in order to check off several less challenging issues before the end of the meeting, which was extended by a half-hour.

The task force also discussed water issues, another hot topic given the ongoing (and going and going ...) drought. Though Assistant City Manager Forest Turner told the council via memo last week that the city has but one current contract for gas drilling -- with Carizzo Oil & Gas, for a maximum 80 million gallons (MG) annually -- the task force repeatedly came up against the question of what restrictions Dallas Water Utilities already has in place when it comes to selling water for use in drilling. Some suggested they could just defer to DWU, or that they can suggest the water department define further restrictions for drilling companies. Finkelman tabled that discussion too, requesting more information from city staff.

Generally, the group wanted to allow the use of fresh-water ponds, but restrict produced water ponds, which can pollute soil and waterways if they leak. Biegler mentioned that, sure, there are some concerns, but eliminating produced water ponds would make on-site storage significantly more difficult and put "a mountain in front of" the possibility of recycling. Shaw athen sked, why differentiate between frack water ponds and fresh water ponds "if it's all done in the same manner?"

"It can't be, man," said anti-fracking activist Jeffrey Jacoby. Actually, he muttered it, quietly, from the crowd of about 10 people watching the meeting. Cossum interjected. "The problem with having a storage pond that's not fresh water is a wildlife issue."

In the course of yesterday's meeting, the group progressed about a quarter of the way through the topics up for deliberation. And while they ticked off many of the less controversial issues, the tough ones were left on the table to be dealt with in upcoming weeks. While the task force aims to finish the process by the end of December, the deadline might be uncomfortably tight. While discussions are lengthy and thorough, decisions are still few and far between.


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12 comments
bbetzen
bbetzen

A good friend of mine has been struggling with this issue at his farm in Pennsylvania.  He has done an extensively detailed study and has produced an hour long documentary on the issues faced.  It is online at http://www.authorstream.com/Pr...

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We must be exceptionally careful!

Mountain Man
Mountain Man

Industry representative, Mr Biegler, wants to rely on the Railroad Commission and the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality for monitoring and enforcement.  We all know (and Mr Biegler does too) that the RRC is a joke and TCEQ is undermanned to handle the15,000 wells in N Texas.  Dallas would need to hire a full time, top-flight Gas Well Inspector to monitor and enforce.  But what we really need, is for the Task Force to say in their report to the City Council:      Gas Well Drilling is not safe in neighborhoods.  Too much is unknown and what is known is too scary.

claytonauger
claytonauger

There's also nothing to keep the companies from loading up Dallas water and taking it to Grand Prairie, which cuts off water to these clowns during a drought. Why didn't Dallas just adopt the Grand Prairie rules? Also, that this group is even considering open hazardous waste ponds (and don't quibble over definitions - the stuff that's in the fracking fluid would be classified as hazardous if it wasn't granted a loophole thanks to Dick Cheney's 2005 energy bill) within the city limits of Dallas is incredible. Are there no citizen representatives who can do from the dais what young Jeff Jacoby did from the audience? Or is the deck so stacked that there are no such representatives?

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

[Though Assistant City Manager Forest Turner told the council via memo last week that the city has but one current contract for gas drilling -- with Carizzo Oil & Gas, for a maximum 80 million gallons (MG) annually -- the task force repeatedly came up against the question of what restrictions Dallas Water Utilities already has in place when it comes to selling water for use in drilling. Some suggested they could just defer to DWU, or that they can suggest the water department define further restrictions for drilling companies.]

This seems like an interesting issue worth further study.  Large commercial users of treated water within the City of Dallas pay rock bottom prices under the special "optional general services" rate schedule for large users:  $2.29 per 1,000 gallons.  In contrast, a similar City of Dallas residential customer would pay the highest rate in North Texas for such usage:  $6.25 per 1,000 gallons.  On a fracking well site that uses, say, 7 million gallons of water, the driller would end up paying $27,720 less for the water than a residential customer.

As an aside, a 7 million gallon usage for a fracking operation uses the same amount of water as would be consumed by a typical City of Dallas residential customer over the course of 73 years, assuming a usage rate of 8,000 gallons per month. Using this same metric, the current contract with Carizzo is equivalent to the amount of water consumed by 833 typical residential households.

Mariana Griggs
Mariana Griggs

Lengthy discussion is not a bad thing.This is not rocket science but is a lot of work. In my Scientific Entomological Opinion, waste water injection wells should be limited to waste from the wells at the corresponding pad sites. This does not mean I agree with the practice, but if you are going to produce poison, then you should put that stuff back on your own turf. Otherwise how will we hold anyone responsible when the poison leaks and causes earthquakes? No trucking in of waste from other places, if the operator cannot afford the gold standard of safety in all of their operations, that should not be our problem to handle.

Secondly, again in my scientific opinion as a forensic scientist, entomologist and biologist, fresh water ponds are good places to harvest water FOR ALL OF US. This water must stay clean and be checked by our gas inspector (which we still do not have) routinely and the cost of the testing should be paid by the operator. No produced water ponds allowed. If an operator cannot afford "'a mountain in front of' the possibility of recycling", again that should not be our problem to fix for them.thanks for reading my rant, these people make me really mad. Lois and the crew have recommendations put forth by citizens, educated citizens, not lobbyists. I hope they can dig them out from the pile and use them.

pak152
pak152

"Too much is unknown and what is known is too scary." there is a lot that is known and not scary.

what is solution besides saying don't do it?

Texaspainter
Texaspainter

Dallas residents don't care. It's all about SUV,GOD,and 'me'.

DallasDrilling
DallasDrilling

they are going to use that 7 million within a one month period. Water Wars 1.

Kathryn
Kathryn

Speaking of earthquakes and injection wells, Lois did mention it once, and not one person on the Task Force responded.  It was essentially ignored by all, even though there were approximately 5 this past weekend in Oklahoma.  This area has never had earthquakes before and now they are happening in North Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.  There is much speculation that fracking, especially the injection wells,  has something to do with this.  In addition, there have been earthquakes up and down the East Coast recently associated with drilling.  Shouldn't we at least study this issue in depth before we bring into our City a practice that may have long-range, as well as short-range, "unintended consequences?"  And citizens of Dallas should be holding the Task Force, and eventually the City Council, responsible for upholding the public safety.  

Billyhoo
Billyhoo

You are absolutely correct to rant against this idea to pump the poisonous produced water, which the Task Force now commonly refers to as "salt" water as in the liquid one would gargle with to cure a sore throat, back down another hole drilled into the earth here, there, or over yonder out of sight.  We wouldn't have to deal with toxic water issues at all if common sense prevailed and demanded no drilling anywhere near towns, cities, homes, schools, businesses, playgrounds, etc.  The Task Force has spent large chunks of time debating setbacks rather than saying Hell No, We Won't Drill under Dallas.  Committee member  Biegler of Southcross Energy has essentially hijacked the Task Force and has cowed most of the members into never contradicting any of his long and tedious explanations of how drilling works and why existing regulatory bodies are up to the task of  regulating frack drilling without the City of Dallas bothering to do their own regulating.  So, Ms. Griggs, I encourage you to rant all you want, because you make sense to me.

Hang Tuff
Hang Tuff

I am sick and tired of industry rep, David Biegler repeatedly saying that there are no water wells in Dallas.  He needs to do his homework.

I agree with Ballyhoo, that all of the Task Force needs to stand up to Mr Biegler and speak out. TheTF members are on the TF because they applied and wanted to be on the TF.  Members are "experts" in something .... they need to come prepared to use it.

Lois Finkelman is trying to engage the whole Task Force.  Unfortunately, she defers to Mr Biegler.  That is exactly why industry "experts" should not be on a Task Force to promote their for-profit self-interest, particularly if it is not balanced with health, safety, environmental, economic, legal expertise, and the common good of the community.

Gangy
Gangy

Thanks, Billyhoo, for your vigilance at these Task Force meetings.

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