New Study Shows Fracking is Bad For Dallas' Air Quality. Environmentalists Want City Hall to Take Note

Categories: The Environment

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Update on Sept. 5: Industry groups naturally dispute Schermbeck's conclusions. A response from Steve Everly from Energy in Depth follows the original post.

Original postMuch of the fracking debate has focused on if and how carcinogens like benzene and hexane find their way into the air and water supplies. Less attention has been paid to the impact of gas drilling on ozone levels, which is significant. Just how significant is hinted at in a new study published in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association by researcher Eduardo Olaguer of the Houston Advanced Research Center.

The paper looks exclusively at gas processing facilities in the Barnett Shale and finds that routine operations can increase ozone levels by three parts per billion for several miles downwind, with the figure sometimes reaching 10 ppb. That not only significantly increases smog but also makes it more difficult for the region to get out of the EPA's doghouse. Already, nine DFW counties fail to meet the federal ozone standard of 85 ppb.

"(U)nless significant controls are placed on emissions from increased oil and gas exploration and production.... urban drilling and the associated growth in industry emissions may be sufficient to keep the area (DFW) in nonattainment," Olaguer writes.

Jim Schermbeck, who heads the environmental group Downwinders at Risk, said natural gas producers were exempted from the provision Clean Air Act governing ozone because operations were so dispersed. That's changed as the drilling boom has brought thousands of drill sites -- and the flares and industrial-sized compressors they bring with them -- close to urban areas. Now, Schermbeck says, they are a bigger contributor to Dallas' ozone levels than cement kilns, coal plants, and car emissions.

Schermbeck doesn't see any state or federal solution on the horizon, so he's placing his bets on the city of Dallas in hopes that the drilling ordinance they ultimately pass includes limits on the release of the volatile organic compounds that lead to ozone formation. The technology already exists to easily do so, but it hasn't been widely adopted because no one has mandated it.

"This study should be a wakeup call for all these officials in Dallas/FW who have sort of made a Faustian bargain with the drillers," he said.

Update: Everly's statement:

Opponents have tried numerous times to inflate air quality risks in the Barnett Shale with new 'research' that works backwards from a conclusion, but the public is smart enough to see through that. TCEQ has been examining real emissions levels in the Barnett Shale for years using actual air monitors (as opposed to modeling exercises with author-chosen inputs). Their tests have repeatedly shown there are 'no levels of concern for any chemicals,' and there are 'no immediate health concerns from air quality in the area' due to oil and gas operations. That may not make for a great fundraising email, but it does reflect the facts, which should be the basis for policymakers at City Hall.
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31 comments
TXsharon
TXsharon

If Joe Camel wrote you to dispute the harm caused by smoking cigaretts, would you print that? Sheesh. 

 

Who is Everly? http://blog.shaleshockmedia.org/2012/08/22/energy-in-depth-eid-gasroots-3/

He is part of the EID which is an advertising campaign for IPAA just like Joe Camel was and advertising campaign for cigarettes. 

 

Steven “Steve” Everly: EID Spokesperson

Assistant Vice President: FTI Consulting Financial Dynamics 

The strategic communication division of FTI Consulting, Financial Dynamics helps ensure that its clients’ brand, reputation and market valuation reflect the true worth of their businesses.

Columnist: Townhall.com  (Emphasis added)

Steve Everley is Manager of Policy Research at American Solutions and a contributing author to To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-  Socialist Machine by Newt Gingrich. Prior to joining American Solutions, Everley worked as a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Kansas and attended graduate school at the University of Southern California.

 

schermbeck
schermbeck

Just a tiny rebuttal to Mr. Everly's statements. Downwinders sent out a press release about a serious independent research study that was the first to examine large releases from gas facilities on ozone levels in DFW. We didn't send it out news of this study as a fundraising tactic and haven't used the info for such purpose. The industry often projects its own profit motives on its opponents when it fact, some of us just care about getting cleaner air in DFW and have devoted our lives to that cause. I'd also point out that the only scientific ally the industry has in this argument is the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, an organization that has a 20-year track record of being wrong about the sources and solutions to DFW air quality. It's TCEQ that told us everything was OK in West Dallas and Midlothian. It's TCEQ that told us we'd be meeting the old 85 ppb ozone standard by now. It's TCEQ that said DFW would be enjoying record low levels of smog this summer when in fact air quality continues to worsen. And it's TCEQ that continues to say that drilling is too far west of DFW to have an impact on ozone levels even as wells cross the Dallas County line. TCEQ is the largest purveyor of junk science when it comes to diagnosing DFW's chronic air pollution problems. That the industry can't mount a more effective response, or find more credible allies to rebut a study that uses its own data as a basis for conclusions shows how little real science industry is employing.

marianagriggs
marianagriggs

"The technology already exists to easily do so, but it hasn't been widely adopted because no one has mandated it."

If you trust your dog off the leash that's great, but I have a runner and an industrial pit bull so I keep them on a leash, for other people's safety. Safe and easy to implement technology, why the argument, cuz you gotta get your way?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

The area governments (The People) need the revenue from shale gas, the country needs to be energy independent, and the risks are low.

 

It is time you accept a utilitarian approach to energy extraction versus an abolitionist approach.  We can get this done and we are going to get this done.  

 

Bottom Line - You are not going to be allowed to impede these crucial activities with hysterical fears of environmental poisons, disproportionate to the threat and dismissive of their associated benefits.

jerikjonsson
jerikjonsson

Sit tight to wait for studies regarding water contamination and ground instability.  The drilling industry will be able to control release of VOCs (and we should certainly make it do so).  It'll be the other hazards that determine whether we're going to have drilling and where.

PhilEsteen
PhilEsteen

The Dallas answer?

 

Vote for some more rich white Republicans who live in the Park Cities, but swear up and down Central Expressway that fracking will never harm your family or pets no matter how close you might live to a wellhead.

 

We can rest assured the natgas businesses won't be 'frackin' the F' out of the Park Cities, now can't we?

darrd2010
darrd2010

The Dallas City Council and Mayor will not read this. We've been supplying them with all types of evidence along with one on one meetings for the last two years. The group as a whole has yet to do 'the right thing' and we don't see if it happening anytime in the near future.

 

Ever since Mary Suhm negotiated the deal back in 2007 behind the scenes, and sandbagged the council, key members of the council have been directed in a slow and deliberate charade of pretending to study the issue. Some council members behavior and comments in chambers should alarm everyone in the City of Dallas.

 

But come time to vote on an ordinance, the ones that vote with the industry and not for protecting Dallas need to know that we will hang that legacy vote on every name down there at 1500 Marilla and pound it into the populace until they leave office.

 

Just biding our time.......

MisterMean
MisterMean

 @holmantx How will this make us energy independent when the gas (and oil) produced will find it;s way on the world market?   Unless you prohibit or limit the fruits of domestic oil/gas production to only the USA then this whole argument of "energy independence" is a red herring.

 

claytonauger
claytonauger

 @holmantx Dude, this is the Houston Advanced Research Center, not Greenpeace. Your utilitarian approach is making smog worse, according to you know, that thing called science. Admittedly not as sharp as your laser reasoning that uses only name calling and no facts, but still, you ought to give it a test drive.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

 @MisterMean Gas dropped from $15 per mcf to $3.50 due to shale gas extraction techniques.  The world market does not set gas, and we are the Saudi Arabia of gas.  That argument has always been bullshit.

 

It's why our electricity companies are going broke.  Goldman Sachs bought Oncor based upon $12 gas.  They can't make their debt payments on $6 (natural) gas.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

 @claytonauger Your car is worse.

 

get out and walk.

 

and turn off your air conditioner.

 

whiner.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk

 @holmantx  @MisterMean  You and I have faaaaaar different ideas about the meaning of "American Exceptionalism".

 

You are a slave, plain and simple.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

 @TheCredibleHulk  @MisterMean you owe your entire lifestyle and existence in modernity to . . . this miracle we call American Exceptionalism (the individual combined with capitalism paramount to a limited state confined to enforcing equality before the law).  That is not Laissez-faire and to decry it in the face of this vast sea of regulation that has dropped the ship out of warp is, well, off message.

 

This is not magic and to place braindead Faith that no matter what you do to the capital engines of this country, people will continue to risk it all is fatal to the Republic.

 

Bottom line - we've dumped the warp core, dropped into sublight, and are now 37,000 light years from home.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk

 @holmantx  @MisterMean I'd largely agree that we can't rely on the government or the enviro's to invent new technology. The private sector is the engine of ideas in this country and that is just as it should be. Government should encourage progress in this sector, with the caveat that they need to be overseen by the people of this country.

 

Now then, would *YOU* agree that we cannot rely on private industry to put the best interests of the commons above their own interest in generating a profit? Because historically, that has been the case. Left to their own devices, private interests tend to neglect or ignore things (like safety and environmental regulations) that negatively effect their profit margin while at the same time painting a glowing picture of their process /product. 

 

I'm no pollyanna that believes we can plug the gas wells, fire up the solar panels and windmills and go along on our merry-way. I get that carbon based energy is here to stay, but that doesn't mean I want give them carte blanche to do as they please.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

 @MisterMean  @TheCredibleHulk horizontal fracking wasn't invented, and the fields were not established, until natural gas hit $6/mcf.  In other words, necessity is the mother of invention.  Government is not capable of ordering creative thinking.  These new technologies can only be brought about through the private sector.  

 

Big Oil is far and away the largest investors in research for new, sustainable alternative energy sources.  And of course they would be - they are energy companies.  It is what they do.

 

I do not think we can rely upon the environmentalists to invent a damn thing.

MisterMean
MisterMean

 @holmantx  @TheCredibleHulk Unless you invest time and money to these new technologies then they will never mature.  Take the space program for example in the first Mercury Red Stone Rocket vs the latest Mars Rover.  Same is true with electric cars.   These may not be there today technology wise but unless we invest in them now then they never will be.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

 @TheCredibleHulk  @MisterMean But you buy into the notion that by doubling our dependence on wind and solar (from 1% to 2%) that will solve the problem - even though we have not yet perfected a way to store electrical energy, these two are intermittent, and they cannot power your house air conditioner . . . you cannot struggle through the concept regarding coal, if it were completely scrubbed.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk

 @holmantx  @MisterMean Please. You're just making yourself look foolish, now.

 

Even if there were a realistic way of burning coal with ZERO emissions, they would NEVER cough up the cash to do so because it is always, ALWAYS cheaper to purchase a politician and a good Madison Ave. marketing team that will "clean up" your image so you don't ever have to worry about actually "cleaning up" your act.

 

(Not to mention the seemingly unending stream of syncophants *cough, holmantx, cough*  that will take their message to the trenches, so to speak.)

MisterMean
MisterMean

 @holmantx  @TheCredibleHulk  @MisterMean I am all for clean coal but I have gotten the impression that the energy industry is kicking and screaming about doing this (polution controls etc.- what is right for the air).  Of course the fracking has the potential water polution issue (a NPR report suggested that the problem is with the cement jobs in the well pipe line)-but until all industries (coal and gas) I will be wondering about the side effects.   Also I wonder if the north Texas water restrictions apply to the water for fracking too?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

 @TheCredibleHulk  @MisterMean If we can improve the tech on coal where nothing is released into the atmosphere to generate heat to produce steam, would that satisfy you?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

 @MisterMean Gas dropped for a reason.  And irrational exuberance is at the fore regarding gas as America's energy salvation.  It'll calm down to where it should be (price-wise) once we find out just how big a boon it is.

 

As for fossil fuels, nothing can touch coal on a scale of how much energy it releases.  Lose the side effects, and coal is the real deal.

MisterMean
MisterMean

 @holmantx 

 

Two points-one is still the fungible nature of a commodity like Gas.  China, Japan (due to the nuclear power plant issues) and other emerging countries are customers for gas.  While it (gas) has had an impact on prices it still is a tradable commodity and will be exported.  Nothing to prevent that-and this fact has been mentioned in the news.

 

The second is regarding the electric companies and coal--why is this even an option with low price gas-are we talking existing coal fired plants (are they too expensive to fit with clean air devices)?   To expensive to build new gas fired plants or did the management just put their bets on the wrong number.

 

In closing as far as TXU and GS et al (and the politicians and deregulation) it seems to me that TXU management could not run a child's lemonade stand let alone a major utility.  The politicians are enablers who are more concerned with their interests than the public that they are elected to serve.

MisterMean
MisterMean

TheCredibleHulk-I would have to agree with your views on GS.  It is a shame that "taking the lumps" would not be more personal to the executives as opposed to the lifeless persona of the corperation (Oh I forgott-Willard Mittens says that it is a person too)!

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk

 @holmantx  @MisterMean Seems like GS made a poor business decision that they ought to be made to live with, then.

 

After all, it's the conservative way to live within your means and take the lumps of self imposed austerity when you fuck up. Right, holmantx?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

 @RealityCheck  @claytonauger Yeah.  I hate it when industry locates in population centers (we call them cities) then stink up the place creating jobs.

 

Don't like life in a city?  Move to the country.

 

but good luck on that pesky job thingy.

 

Liberal profound thought - there's smog in cities.

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