Texas Is Actually Considering (Slightly) Tighter Fracking Regulations

Categories: Environment

1frackdenton.jpg
Rich Anderson
North Texas activists say the latest fracking regulations are a good step, but there's more to be done.
Just a few weeks after Denton failed to pass a ban on fracking, the Texas Railroad Commission is proposing tighter regulation on oil and natural gas drilling in response to the north Texas earthquakes.

At its monthly meeting yesterday, the commission accepted a new set of rule proposals regarding regulation of injection wells. Among the rule changes, drillers seeking new permits would have to provide a history of seismic activity in the area they would propose to drill. The Commission could deny a permit if there is a history of seismic activity, or terminate a permit if seismic activity begins to occur.

North Texas has seen a flurry of seismic activity in the last several months, attributed mostly to the wells used by drillers to dispose of spent fracking water. The move could provide momentum for local fracking limits in the future, especially when the proposed Denton ban comes to a vote in November. It is also a possible sign of increased state support for fracking limitations. The changes will be open to public commentary until September 29, and will then by voted on by the commission.

But while local anti-fracking activists say that this latest move is a step in the right direction, there's much more to be done. Adam Briggle is one of the leaders of the Denton anti-fracking movement. He is a UNT philosophy professor and president of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group.

"Well, it is certainly good to see improvements on these points," Briggle wrote in an email. "But they are not going to touch our basic problem: We have a heavy industry (that is not required to submit an emissions inventory or disclose all the chemicals they put into the environment) operating within 200 feet of homes. It just does not make any sense from a land use and community integrity perspective"

Most critics are in agreement that the gesture is a small one. Cyrus Reed, of the Lone Star Sierra Club, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that this move is good but lacking the foundation of more comprehensive reform. "I wish they had done this several years ago," he said. "This proposal is a good first step, but there are additional protections that should be in place."

For his part, Briggle agrees the last rule changes are a band-aid for the larger problem of municipality drilling. "These rules won't change that and I don't think any RRC rules will, because they do not concern themselves with surface impacts," he said. "The question of where fracking can occur should be one that is settled by local communities."


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69 comments
Benjam
Benjam

My problem w. Professor Briggle's comment is that his minions will not stop w. Denton, I doubt they will respect other local communities rights to vote to allow what they believe is acceptable risks to occur, no matter how many citizens participate or what the percentage of approval! Then we will be debating whether injection wells, retention ponds, gravel quarries or other offshoots of gas drilling should be allowed in Decatur (or other like minded city where the benefits of gas drilling are not in dispute) because it somehow is affecting some Denton hipsters' property value! I have stated publicly that I believe that most gas companies will not sue to overturn the ban if it passes, but will they stop if Denton doesn't pass the ban or if another town decides to allow something they oppose?

Benjam
Benjam

Denton didn't pass a ban, but a moratorium was already in place, so what's the difference? The way the vote was explained to me by one of my councilmen was that they could only approve or deny the petition, which left no room for any sort of compromise. Colorado had the common sense to compromise rather than subject their citizenry to a costly & unnecessary statewide vote & the inevitable lawsuits, which in Denton is already estimated to be $4,000,000!

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Umm, Emily, the proposed rule has absolutely nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing.  Instead it has to do with seismic activity which appears to be correlated with disposal wells.

TimRuggiero
TimRuggiero

@Benjam I can assure you that Decatur-and the rest of Wise county-are perfectly safe from any 'environmentalism' whatsoever. Judging by the fact that Wise County is in the non-attainment area, Hydraulic Fracturing was born in Wise County, and virtually everyone lives with a gas well, compressor station, pipeline, condensate tanks, and a dozen or so rigs at any given point in time, Wise County is lost; There's nothing left to save.

schermbeck
schermbeck

@Benjam Very good summary of why more debate, transparency, democracy, and local control is anathema to the gas industry. 

TXsharon
TXsharon

@Benjam In addition, the wells in Denton were permitted by plat prior to the formation of the gas well administrator division of the city. These plats comprise 30% of Denton's acreage and might be a few acres or they might be hundreds of acres. They are permitted for unlimited fracking in perpetuity. So the only thing that will same Denton is a ban on fracking. No ordinance will apply to these platted areas, which is why the city has been unable to enforce their new ordinance or issue violations to operators.

TXsharon
TXsharon

@Benjam I've been working with the people in Denton for 5 years and there is no compromise that is acceptable for the oil and gas industry.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@dingo uh, except for the 2.2m in Irving 25 days ago and the 2.5m in Farmers Branch 4 months ago?  From your own link, by the way.

Perhaps you meant to say it 'diminished' or 'fell off a bit', not 'ended' six months ago?

Benjam
Benjam

@TimRuggiero @Benjam  That wasn't really the question Tim! The question was whether people on your "side" would respect a another communities' right to pass laws or enact rules that are contrary to your "beliefs"? You don't need to tell me about Wise County. I work there every day & drive past your former home on 380 every day!

Beenjamman
Beenjamman

@schermbeck @Benjam  I was merely responding to Professor Briggle's comments & wondering if he would respect another town's right to determine what they want! Please let us know what you will do when other towns do what you disagree with & the Colorado compromise I referenced below.

Benjam
Benjam

@TXsharon @Benjam  We will see if the CO compromise holds, but it definitely prevented the expense of a statewide referendum!

Benjam
Benjam

I was in Chicago recently & there was a 2. something earthquake. Turned out it was caused/actually was only a quarry! Don't think the do-gooders are trying ban quarrying for some strange reason.

dingo
dingo

@RTGolden1 @dingo 

uh, except for the 2.2m in Irving 25 days ago and the 2.5m in Farmers Branch 4 months don't really constitute a flurry.


Perhaps you meant to say those two were comparable to a  McFlurry with M&M's.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@blankcur1 @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul Because untreated "spent fracking water" is basically hazardous waste  "tainted water that comes out of fractured wells; the fluid, which contains a mix of chemicals and salts, must be taken to a licensed disposal facility."

TimRuggiero
TimRuggiero

@Benjam @TimRuggiero Can you provide an example of what would be 'contrary'? or an example of a law or rule a community might consider passing? Every community in the state of Texas already has the TRRC promoting natural gas development everywhere possible and every damn dirty thing that goes with it, with the TCEQ not very far behind. But now that you mention it, I can't remember the last community that actually got together, formed a group of some kind, held meetings or rallies, attended city council meetings or proposed a ballot initiative or took any other proactive motion -to demand laws or rules that allow harmful activity next to their homes, schools, churches and parks. 

TXsharon
TXsharon

In 2010, I co-authored Drill-Right Texas as an example of how the industry could drill and frack and do it right. After several more years of experience, I no longer believe it is currently possible to frack right. I also do not believe it is currently possible to adequately regulate this industry. My personal belief is that we should move to renewable energy ASAP and only continue to frack where absolutely necessary and with very strict oversight. However, I believe in local control and the right for communities to decide for themselves. That is why I help communities whether they want a ban or just want to know how to regulate or sign a better lease.

I'm certain that Briggle feels the same.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@Benjam I'm not voicing support or opposition to the idea of banning anything, just pointing out that the earthquakes didn't stop 6 months ago.


@dingo  2 or 3 measurable seismic events in a 4 month period, in an area with no discernible fault lines and very very few natural causes of seismic activity would classify as a flurry.  I'm pretty sure a single hurricane in central Wyoming would be cause for concern and head-scratching and a lot of looking for a cause.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@schermbeck @everlastingphelps @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul Injection wells have been used for saltwater disposal in Texas since the 1930s and for secondary recovery via CO2 injection for 50 years.  Almost all of the wells still producing in west Texas as producing via secondary recovery.  


You are woefully, horribly uninformed about the oil business in general.  You really should stop beclowinging yourself and stick to the parts that you know.

Benjam
Benjam

@TimRuggiero @Benjam  Tim - Again not advocating this, but here is an article about a proposed pro-fracking law being struck down in PA: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-12-19/pennsylvania-high-court-strikes-down-part-of-fracking-law-1.

Here in TX nothing has happened, mainly because as you pointed out, the "mineral estate" is dominant! An example of something that COULD be done is what they are doing to the neighborhood in Uptown that is fighting a Costco being allowed there. If a judge were to say that an opposing party had to put up a bond equal to the amount of damages that COULD be involved, (which would not be the City in Denton's case), the results could be catastrophic!

Benjam
Benjam

@TXsharon  I respect that Ms. Wilson! I have followed your transition from Wise County landowner just trying to educate yourself about the business, to prominent anti-fracking activist. I have asked Professor Briggle on his blog, & I ask you...will you support me when/if I start a campaign to ban other heavy industrial activities in Denton besides fracking? This is not schtick or the usual straw man arguments you encounter on your blog every day! I have already received Adam's promise to assist in any way if I go forward w. such an effort.

Benjam
Benjam

I'm not voicing support or opposition to the idea of banning anything just pointing out that it all depends on who's ox is being gored!

TXsharon
TXsharon

Some of the larger quakes in Texas have been in the Snyder area and were linked to injection of CO2. Injection is injection and disposal injection as well as secondary injection and Fracking injection have all resulted in earthquakes.

Even those of us who do not currently work in industry (I did for 12 years) are capable of reading scientific studies.

schermbeck
schermbeck

@everlastingphelps @schermbeck @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul And they were far from metropolitan areas. There were no injection wells in Fort Worth prior to urban drilling for gas. Likewise for Azle, (where the latest problems were occurring before the wells cut back on the volumes being disposed). Likewise for most in Johnson County - you know, the ones peer-reviewed, journal-published studies linked to earthquakes. All you have to do is look at any RRC graph showing the annual numbers of injection wells in Texas and their location to see that the vast majority of the wells in North Texas have been built since 2006 or so, when fracking was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act and other federal environmental laws. I'll give up commenting on industry practices when you get over your reluctance to face the facts of the downside of fracking with more than just contempt for the truth.

TXsharon
TXsharon

@Benjam

I need to see what your definition of heavy industry is but I generally support not siting heavy industry in neighborhoods. My support for banning another heavy industry sited in neighborhoods--and I know of no other heavy industry that is allowed in neighborhoods--would be only as a private citizen though. After years of pro bono help to communities, 3 years ago I became the only person in Texas who gets paid solely to work on fracking issues. 

Benjam
Benjam

@TXsharon  Again - "I'm not voicing support or opposition to the idea of banning anything just pointing out that it all depends on who's ox is being gored!"

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@schermbeck @everlastingphelps @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul You're coming along, slowly.  If you go back and reread, you'll see that I've always said that the injection wells are more likely than the fracking, and even in this thread I said that these regulations are reasonable.


Your argument is like someone saying that we should ban doctors because there was a problem with the way a few of them disposed of their medical waste.  Fracking isn't a problem, and injection wells are rarely a problem.  These regulations will likely identify the problem wells, and shut them down.

Benjam
Benjam

@TXsharon  Do you think a brick kiln or a copper smelter fits the profile? How about we only go after industries that have a proven history of violations w. TCEQ or EPA ?

TXsharon
TXsharon

What are you talking about? Jim Popp lost.

schermbeck
schermbeck

@Beenjamman @schermbeck @everlastingphelps @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul You means just like good zoning outlaws trucks with hazardous waste from gong through the middle of densely-populated areas, or keeps nukes out of mid-town Manhattan, or keeps fracking wells at least 1500 feet from residential areas? That's called reasonable precaution. Fracking and people don't mix, and wells should not be 200 feet away from homes, whether in Denton or Decatur. Quit trolling as a concerned citizen and own up to your connection with the industry. 

schermbeck
schermbeck

@everlastingphelps @schermbeck @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul More than a few local juries of late have disagreed that fracking (and its associated infrastructure) isn't a problem and just Tuesday the state itself admitted that gas air pollution contributes to area smog. Disposal wells are a part of the necessary infrastructure for the practice of fracking, just like compressors, dehydrators, storage tanks, diesel trucks, pipelines and rigs. These regulations help identify new problem areas - something that should be done before the well is built but has not been - but they were designed so as not to put a single well out of business. The moment the RRC revokes a disposal well permit because of earthquakes, the drinks are on me.

TXsharon
TXsharon

@Benjam @TXsharon 

Yes, those fit the profile for me. But the oil and gas industry also has a proven history of violations. 

Benjam
Benjam

@TXsharon Didn't he successfully stop the injection well he was worried about?

Benjam
Benjam

I own it Jim but if you are paying attention to other issues besides this one or click on my screen name you will see that I also post about transit issues & that I actually agree with a ban, just not on existing wells. Unlike you I actually live there!

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@schermbeck @Beenjamman @everlastingphelps @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul I work for a law firm that deals with the oil patch.  I've been on both sides of these disputes, and lots of other toxic tort cases (again, both sides.)


People have a right to explore and produce on their mineral rights.  They also have obligations that go along with that exploration and production.  We should be balancing those obligations on the reality that modern life requires plentiful, affordable energy.  


I'm against the sort of "nothing nowhere nohow" regulations you want because those regulations will be borne on the backs of the poor, who pay disproportionately more of their income in energy costs to start with.  Pie-in-the-sky environmentalism is a luxury for the rich, paid for by the poor.

Benjam
Benjam

@schermbeck @everlastingphelps @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  Didn't I also say that you would have to be really dumb or in denial if you thought that an industry that uses as much diesel equipment or moves as much dirt & gravel as ours doesn't partially contribute to DFW's smog problem?

I doubt the Parr verdict is going to stand up. A Dallas jury is not very representative of public opinion in TX, sort of like why all the big lawsuit awards happen in Beaumont (Orange County?) for some reason.

How come you go away when I make a good point? Is your Downwinders at Risk blog as busy as Ms. Wilson's blog?

Benjam
Benjam

@TXsharon @Benjam  That's like saying all lawyers are crooks or all used car salesmen are dishonest! Companies with a PROVEN history of violations would include Aruba, Eagleridge & Reichmann, at least in Denton!

schermbeck
schermbeck

@Benjam You mean the "existing wells" that were drilled as close as 187 feet from a family's home, violating the intent of the 1200- foot buffer zone the Denton City Council endorsed, and thus setting-off the chain of events leading up to the election you're complaining about now? Those existing wells?

TXsharon
TXsharon

In Denton, energy prices continue to rise despite all they fracking. So the poor are getting fracked by losing value in their property, higher energy bills and more medical bills.

schermbeck
schermbeck

@everlastingphelps @schermbeck @Beenjamman @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul 

I know that must be what you like to tell yourself, but in fact the brunt of pollution is borne by low-income communities of color who live far away from the owners of the pollution. There's an entire discipline called "environmental justice" devoted to documenting this phenomenon. Polluters go where they get the least resistance to their pollution - where people can least afford to pay lawyers such as yourself to keep them out. That's why they call people like us. If industry did things right the first, or second, or even third time, our services would not be in such high demand.

TXsharon
TXsharon

@Benjam

My world is way bigger than Denton. Just look up the enforcement actions, violations and rulings against certain operators. It is an inherently dirty process and they cut corners. 

Benjam
Benjam

@TXsharon @Benjam  It says he initially won, but YOU ARE RIGHT! I will hurl myself off the nearest railroad bridge immediately!

Benjam
Benjam

Yes Jimbo the ones that were ALREADY THERE when they built the subdivision! Shows how much the godfather of air pollution activism in DFW knows!

Benjam
Benjam

@TXsharon  That's a false argument much like people always saying fracking is going to keep the evildoers from trying to kill us! Did you know the City of Denton is actively promoting a "tri gen" plant to businesses even though we may end up banning fracking? Do you think that is a good idea? Can you see how having similar plants all over the country where the gas comes directly from wells located close by may stimulate increased manufacturing activity, which has taken a hit here in the U.S.?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@schermbeck @everlastingphelps @Beenjamman @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul The brunt of anything is borne by the poor and lower middle class.  Everything they buy is disproportionately more expensive on a lower income, from groceries, to gas, to rent to child care.  The poor and lower rungs of the economic ladder can't afford high-hat tax attorneys to snip away their tax burden through dodges and shelters.

If you want to toot the horn of environmentalism, go for it.  Don't try to dress it up as a good deed done for the poor.  Those of us clinging to those lower rungs are pretty fed up with being used as human shields for either side of this, and many other, arguments.

schermbeck
schermbeck

@Benjam If they were "already there" when the houses were built, why did they need new rigs and pipe showing up in the past two years - or were those just for decoration?

TXsharon
TXsharon

You might be happy to know that Fracking does not discriminate. The poor, middle class and very wealthy are all equally impacted. Just ask Rex Tillerson and Dick Armey.

Benjam
Benjam

@TXsharon @Benjam  Do you remember me bringing up the whole railroad issue that people up North are starting to get excited about? Can you guess what part of Denton I live in based on my concerns?

TimRuggiero
TimRuggiero

@schermbeck @Benjam I think the original wells were vertical, and pretty much spent. The developer owns the land and minerals, and retained the minerals when the homes started being built. Once a substantial amount of homes were built, the developer then leased the minerals and brought in hydraulic fracturing into the neighborhoods, and that's why there are rigs/drill sites 200' from homes, and compressor stations on street corners. 

Benjam
Benjam

To reach the Barnett Shale! Geez do some research before you spout off about something you obviously don't understand!

TXsharon
TXsharon

@Benjam @TXsharon 

Are you the same poster as benjammin the landman who lives in Denton? 

If you live by a railroad, you should be concerned about shipping the fracked crude on trains that essentially become bombs. I do work on that issue. 

The reason Bakken crude is shipped on trains is because there are no investors who want to invest in building a pipeline because they know the wells deplete so rapidly the investment won't pay out. 

Benjam
Benjam

@TimRuggiero @schermbeck @Benjam  Partially correct Tim but the part about leasing is off! The minerals would have to be leased if the vertical well is still producing. It's called being Held by Production or HBP! Maybe they expanded the unit, but the area around the drillsite would have to have been leased, otherwise the developer would kind of have the gas company over a barrel, no pun intended!

Benjam
Benjam

@TXsharon @Benjam  It is I, also used the nom de plume of "your neighbor" because it would appear on your blog as Your neighbor says... But you already knew that because you outed me and a co-worker for sending messages from our OKC based company's server!

I am concerned about trains & I doubt people or the municipalities fully understand what is rumbling by in extremely close proximity to schools, houses & parks! Some people think that the train thing is a vast left wing conspiracy to benefit Obama's friend Warren Buffett & that environazis purposely took the brakes off in Canada to cause the accident that is at the center of this issue!

TXsharon
TXsharon

@Benjam @TimRuggiero @schermbeck 

EagleRidge converted an old, vertical well to horizontal and drilled new wells on the two pad sites in Denton. A ban will have no impact on already producing wells. Gas will continue to flow and royalties will continue to be paid from these wells. EagleRidge can drill new wells on this platted area but they would not be able to frack those new wells or refrack the existing wells that are in production. 

TXsharon
TXsharon

@Benjam 

I am also very concerned about trains and we have been working to get municipalities to understand this danger! We will continue to work on this issue. Do you know if oil trains go through Denton?

Benjam
Benjam

@TXsharon @Benjam @TimRuggiero @schermbeck  That is something that ultimately will be litigated if the ban is put in place, but you must at least admit that the POTENTIAL loss of income may come into play in the future!

Benjam
Benjam

@TXsharon @Benjam  Absolutely they do, but the one near me is a UP track & most of the oil trains are on BNSF, as they control most of the ND territory!

I look forward to working WITH you on this issue.

TXsharon
TXsharon

@Benjam

If the trains are at all regular, that would be helpful information. I have some ideas. 

 

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