Underdog Anti-Frackers Struggle for Denton's Vote, But Fight Could Swing Either Way

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Tom Arthur
Dentonites are turning out more than ever for early voting, many in response to the proposition to ban fracking in the city.

As early voting wraps up this week, Denton County has seen a surge in voters, as well as campaign spending. Much of that has to do with the fracking debate, which has also incurred more spending than any other campaign in Denton's history.

See also: Frackers Have Launched an Aggressive Campaign to Kill Denton's Drilling Ban

"It's pretty fair to assume that given how much money is poured into this, that's why so many people are out," says Dr. Adam Briggle, a leader with Frack Free Denton and a bioethics professor at UNT. "Everything now is focused on communicating with voters, especially at the polls, and making sure that they're not confused when they're going in to vote. The language is definitely written by a lawyer. So we want to make sure that folks know that they're voting what they want to vote for."

As of Tuesday night, Denton County election officials report, there was a 16 percent increase in early voting from the 2010 election: 47,035 in-person votes were cast, up from 40,529 on the same early-voting day in 2010.

"I have noticed since I came here that there is great activity," says Lannie Noble, Denton County elections administrator. "We've had people at a lot of early-voting locations trying to get information out to the voters. Most especially here in Denton we've had the fracking parties, for and against, well-represented."

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Texas Drillers Lead the Nation in Pumping Benzene into Earth, Which Is Not Good

Categories: Environment

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Joshua Doubek
Slip through the right series of loopholes and it can be perfectly legal to inject benzene into oil wells. Naturally, drillers in Texas figured this out thousands of gallons of benzene ago.

Using data disclosed by the oil industry, a new report calculates all the benzene that is legally going into wells across the country. There's a lot, it turns out, and it's mostly in Texas.

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Frisco Says Exide Is Being Cheap about Potential Superfund Site Cleanup

Categories: Environment

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Lead makes you dumber, even if you only eat or inhale just a little bit. (Don't take my word for it, see what the scientists are saying). So when Frisco became one of 21 places in the country that failed lead-air quality standards that the feds implemented in 2008, people pointed their fingers at Exide's battery recycling plant in town as a likely culprit.

Exide agreed to close the plant in 2012 and shortly after filed for bankruptcy. Then Frisco officials announced last year that the city would probably keep and contain the lead at the spot where Exide left it, even though researchers say that toxic landfills in populated areas are a terrible idea.

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Frackers Have Launched an Aggressive Campaign to Kill Denton's Drilling Ban

Categories: Environment

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TXSharon
If you live in Denton, you've probably received one of these anti-ban flyers in the mail.
If you've driven up I-35 to Denton in the last month, you may have seen one of the many billboards popping up around town. The billboards loudly proclaim the economic damage that a city ordinance banning natural gas and oil drilling could cause to the city, and encourage residents to vote against the fracking ban on November 4.

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

The billboards are just the beginning. Recently, Denton residents have been inundated by a deluge of mail campaigns, phone surveys, and local billboard advertisements discouraging the ban, and one resident, Heidi Klein, says pro-drilling advocates are going door to door to lobby against the ban. The phone survey that Klein, and many fellow Denton residents, report receiving last week is particularly disturbing:

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Fracking Emission Carcinogens Found in Denton Playgrounds

Categories: Environment

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Kevin Payravi
Several Denton playgrounds have been found to have unsafe levels of benzene.

A new report published by ShaleTest, an independent environmental research agency in Denton, found levels of benzene in several Denton parks that exceed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's long-term exposure limitations. Benzene is a carcinogen found in cigarettes, gasoline and is a common byproduct of oil and gas drilling sites.

McKenna Park is one of the playgrounds where unsafe levels of the chemical were found. The playground is located next to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Denton, within a neighborhood, next to several churches and across the street from one of Denton's many Rayzor Ranch gas wells.

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Sierra Club Ordered to Pay Luminant's Attorneys' Fees in Big Brown Suit

Categories: Environment

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The Sierra Club says it will appeal the judge's ruling.
For years, Luminant's Big Brown coal-fired plant has been described as one of the worst air polluters in the state, sitting at or near the top of the EPA's list of plants spewing nitrogen oxide, which can cause respiratory illnesses. So, it would seem a ripe target for a Clean Air Act lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club.

Taking a shot at Big Brown, however, could wind up costing the environmental group more than $6 million. Turns out, Big Brown may pump out a lot of nasty stuff into the air, but no more than its operating permit allows. U.S. District Judge Walter Smith ruled that the Sierra Club knew that when it filed an unsuccessful Clean Air Act suit against the plant's owner, Luminant, and last week he ordered the Club to pay the power company's legal bills for what he called a "frivolous" suit.

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Texas Leads the Nation in Illegally Injecting Diesel into Wells, Which Is Not a Good Thing

Categories: Environment

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Regulation of the mysterious chemicals used in fracking fluid used in drilling for oil and gas has been pretty much off limits to the Environmental Protection Agency ever since Congress in 2005 stripped the EPA of its authority to regulate fracking fluid under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In a meager win for people who like water, the 2005 loophole at least was supposed to discourage oil companies from fracking with diesel chemicals, which are especially toxic. Because the diesel chemicals weren't included in that special exemption, anyone who wanted to frack with diesel was, in theory, supposed find some other volatile chemical to use instead, or at least ask the EPA for a special permit first. Naturally, that didn't happen, and the EPA missed out on its one exciting chance to regulate fracking fluid, the secret sauce of water and other stuff drillers use in hydraulic fracturing. A 2011 congressional investigation found that companies kept using diesel anyway. The EPA didn't do anything to stop them or clarify its diesel guidelines until recently.

Thanks to all that, a new report now shows that Texas has been collecting quite a lot of diesel in our fracking wells. In fact, we lead the nation in diesel.

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TCEQ Approves Nuclear Waste Site Expansion Despite Environmental Concerns

Categories: Environment

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Waste Control Specialists
The TCEQ voted to triple capacity and cut liability insurance requirements for a West Texas radioactive dump.

In a quiet, private vote yesterday, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality voted to approve a Dallas-based chemical waste management company's request to triple capacity at its West Texas disposal site. Waste Control Specialists had proposed that it site grow from 2.3 million cubic feet to 9 million cubic feet. State regulators are also slashing the amount required for liability insurance.

In recent years, WCS faced a major lawsuitseeking to remove its operating license. The Sierra Club, among other environmental activists, claimed that its Texas Compact Waste Facility in Andrews County was located too close to a major aquifer and there were concerns of potential groundwater contamination. Although the company was assured of its license last April, the facility has remained a point of contention between environmental advocates and WCS.

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Texas Is Actually Considering (Slightly) Tighter Fracking Regulations

Categories: Environment

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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.

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Texas Beef Industry Worried the EPA Is Cracking Down on Dumping Crap into Waterways

Categories: Environment

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Google Maps
That brown circle is a crap-filled lagoon.
When British artist Mishka Henner was looking through satellite photographs of the Texas landscape, he kept finding huge, brown pools of water. The pools, as he discovered, were the toilets of the beef industry, waste lagoons where all the feces and urine of factory farmed cows is funneled. Texas cow farms captured the British art world with "Feedlots," Henner's photography series of nothing but Texas feedlot ponds. The most famous image, shared all over the Internet, is the gigantic, brownish-red waste lagoon next to Coronado Feeders, a feedlot in Dalhart.

There are real reasons to be disgusted with waste lagoons, besides the fact that they're filled with poop and give British artists more excuses to ridicule Texas. The lagoons will sometimes overflow or leak, eventually winding up in bodies of water whose ecosystems can't deal with all that cow crap. And when the waste is used as fertilizer, it still finds its way into water supplies.

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