DFW Breathes Some of America's Worst Air, and Fracking May Be Partially to Blame

Categories: Environment

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Joshua Doubek
Assorted fracking equipment.

Of North Texas' 7 million residents, 1.5 million have asthma, lung disease, heart disease or diabetes. Simply by living here those residents suffer the risk of additional complications beyond those that would normally accompany their diagnoses.

According to a report by the Texas Tribune, the Dallas region has ozone levels that far exceed federally mandated limits. For a time, beginning in 2000 and ending in 2007, air quality in the area actually improved. It was still way outside off what the EPA considers healthy, but things were getting better, thanks largely to improved auto emissions standards. After 2007 what had been a steady decline in ozone stopped, right around the Barnett Shale-induced fracking boom.

A presentation made to the North Central Texas Council of Governments shows that the ozone monitors that most consistently show levels that endanger public health are located, almost exclusively, in Tarrant and Denton Counties, both of which have a high number of fracking wells -- something that is, of course, a source of consternation for many residents.

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Denton Didn't Ban Fracking Last Night, but Voters Will Get a Chance to in November

Categories: Environment

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Crystal Hollis
Frack Free Denton getting signatures at the UNT campus.
After listening to testimony from hundreds of speakers stretching past 2 a.m. this morning, the Denton City Council ultimately voted not to ban fracking, instead sending a petition asking for a ban to voters. But while most on City Council were hesitant about passing an all-out ban -- it was defeated 5-2 -- some expressed frustration with the way the industry has been operating locally.

"We've talked with them, we've talked with them to elicit help in our ongoing problems because cannot enforce it," Mayor Chris Watts said, speaking about the city's fracking ordinance. "If we had an enforceable setback, we all wouldn't be here until 2:35 in the morning."

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Gas Industry Is Looking Nervous About Denton's Proposed Fracking Ban

Categories: Environment

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MyEyeSees
The initiative to ban fracking in Denton started out as many seemingly hopeless political campaigns often do, just a petition by angry homeowners fighting a well-funded industry that had already trampled the Denton City Council in court and follow-up negotiations.

But now that little petition has nearly 2,000 signatures, more than enough required for Denton's City Council to consider passing the ban at a meeting tonight, and that powerful industry is starting to look nervous. On Friday, the chairman of the Texas agency that oversees oil and gas used his authority to vaguely accuse Denton petitioners of working for Russia.


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School Buses Are Terrible for the Environment, and Texas Is Sort of Doing Something About It

Categories: Environment

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WhisperToMe
Ahh, so many fond memories of the yellow dog school bus. So much wheezing, coughing, and killing of the ozone layer. Those were the days.

We already knew that North Texas' air is terrible. The ground isn't much better.

And according to the EPA, school buses may have a lot to do with that ground pollution. A school bus can emit nearly twice as much pollution per mile as a semi-truck, and it doesn't help that the kids who ride them, with their younger and developmentally sensitive respiratory systems, typically take in more breaths than adults.

That's why the state is offering to foot the bill for ditching old diesel-engine vehicles and replacing them with new hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles -- and why the state is looking toward Dallas as a prime candidate.

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First Case of Chikungunya Mosquito Virus Confirmed in Texas

Categories: Environment

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tanakawho
The chikungunya virus has popped up in Williamson County.
By now, you must have heard about the new virus -- the one that gets passed by mosquitoes that bite during the day -- that could potentially come to Texas. Well, there's nothing potential about it anymore.

The first Texas case has been confirmed by the Department of State Health Services. A resident of Williamson County, 160 miles south of Dallas, was infected while vacationing in the Caribbean, which has been dealing with the virus since 2013.

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Health Officials Prepare for a Possible New Mosquito Virus

Categories: Environment

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tanakawho
The mosquitoes that carry the new virus are black with white stripes and bite during the day.
You could be dealing with a mosquito-virus one-two punch this season. Along with West Nile, a new virus could rear its ugly head in Texas. It's name is chikungunya, and it's pronounced "chicken-goon-ya."

This mosquito season already has one twist to it. Because of the drought, mosquitoes that carry West Nile could be stronger and more persistent, which means the chances of them passing the virus could be higher. Now, add another: The mosquitoes that carry chikungunya are different from those that pass West Nile.

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Jenny Land: Dallas' Non-Toxic Mosquito Hunter

Categories: Environment

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Can Turkyilmaz
Jenny Land preaches a green, sustainable approach to fending off West Nile Virus.  
In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 20 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Can Turkyilmaz. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

Somehow a mosquito has sneaked into Jenny Land's home. This shouldn't have happened. Land sprayed garlic in her backyard and hired a solar-powered pest company to treat her lawn with all-natural essential oils. Before mosquito season began, she was placing larvicide around her home and her neighborhood. She always offers guests two brands of natural bug repellant. And yet, there it is, lurking.

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As Texas Shakes and Regulators Stall, Midland Will Have its Water and Frack Too

Categories: Environment

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Joshua Doubek
Increasing earthquakes around North Texas have many people uneasy about rampant fracking practices around the area.
If you live just a little northwest of Fort Worth, chances are you've felt an earthly rumble and grumble at least once in the last six months. In the cities of Azle and Reno, dozens of such small earthquakes have struck in the last year. For an area that has historically been short on seismic movement, it's been cause for alarm.

On Wednesday, the state Railroad Commission announced that it's begun compiling data received from oil and gas companies across the state to determine whether or not there is a link between a rise in small-scale local earthquakes and natural gas drilling in North Texas. KERA and NPR's StateImpact Texas hosted a panel discussion last night in Azle to address the possible link.

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Texas' Only Nuclear Waste Dump Wants to Triple Capacity and Slash its Liability Insurance

Categories: Environment

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Waste Control Specialists
The Texas Compact Waste Facility near Andrews Texas is a dumpsite for Texas radioactive waste material.
In a dark basement at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, just north of downtown, sits a small, continually refreshed stockpile of radioactive waste that awaits disposal. After it leaves Southwestern, it is taken out to the tiny town of Andrews, where it is promptly added to the only radioactive waste dump site in Texas, the Texas Compact Waste Facility.

Beginning in 2007, the Dallas-based radioactive waste disposal company Waste Control Specialists (WCS) faced a major lawsuit by the Sierra Club, which alleged that the Andrews dump site was contaminating groundwater. The lawsuit called for the discontinuation of the state-issued waste site disposal license. A Texas appeals court in April ruled in favor of WCS and upheld the license. Now, in an apparent celebration of their secured license, WCS wants to expand the West Texas waste site. It just needs some help from the state.

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The Texas Drought Is Producing Bigger, Stronger, Meaner Mosquitoes

Categories: Environment

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John Tann
Mosquitoes could be a hell of a lot peskier this season.
Texas' historic drought is, at least, good for one thing: fewer mosquitoes. But according to researchers at UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, the mosquitoes that survive could be bigger, meaner and more persistent.

Mosquitoes grow in stagnant water. If there are fewer mosquitoes, there are more nutrients to go around, says Dr. Joon Lee, a medical entomologist who investigates the possibility of West Nile risk in Fort Worth as part of a partnership with the city. That may result in larger mosquitoes -- not moth-sized, but still. "A little bigger is a lot bigger in terms of mosquitoes," Lee tells Unfair Park.

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