MAY 19, 2015

Texas Governor Signs Bill That Makes Local Fracking Bans Illegal

Texas lawmakers have made it clear you don’t mess with Texas when it comes to extracting fossil fuels. Even if you’re a Texan.

On Monday, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed legislation that prohibits cities across Texas from banning hydraulic fracturing from their home turf. In what was a major agenda item for Texas lawmakers this session, towns like Denton, Texas — which passed the state’s first local fracking ban last November — will no longer be able to exercise local control over the oil and gas industry when it comes to nearby extraction.

DECEMBER 2, 2014

Poisoned Fracking Playgrounds a Threat to Texas Kids

The air at Texas playgrounds could be hazardous to children’s health. That’s what nonprofit environmental testing group ShaleTest, which tracks the impact of shale oil and gas extraction for communities which can’t afford such tests, found as part of its Project Playground: Cleaner Air for Active Kids funded by Patagonia. The group ran air quality tests at five recreational parks and playgrounds in the north Texas, located near natural gas processing plants in the Barnett shale fracking area. It found harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, at all five.

“The oil and gas industry claims that they’re drilling responsibly,” said ShaleTest president Tim Ruggiero. “These tests show they’re not.”

The story was featured on the cover of the alternative newsweekly Fort Worth Weekly this week under the headline “Bad Air Day.” It described a deserted Delga Park in Fort Worth next to a huge natural gas compressor station run by Chesapeake Energy, which reporter Peter Gorman had to leave after two hours because his eyes were tearing and he had difficulty breathing.

ShaleTest collected air samples at the locations and compared the results to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)’s Effects Screening Levels (ESL) and Air Monitoring Comparison Values (AMCV), “set to protect human health and welfare,” according to the TCEQ. The parks include two in Fort Worth, one in the Fort Worth/Dallas area suburb of Mansfield, the city of Denton and DISH in Denton County, whose story was told in Josh Fox’s Gasland films.
“The people living around Delga Park, in particular, are going to be sacrificed in the long term,” Calvin Tillman, former mayor of DISH and co-founder of ShaleTest, told Fort Worth Weekly. “And the sickening thing is that they’re being sacrificed so that the gas company can make a few bucks.”

The tests found benzene, a known carcinogen, at levels higher than the AMCVs and ESLs at three of the locations tested—seven times higher at Delga Park—as well as traces of two other carcinogens which can also cause skin and eye irritation, and impact the nervous system, liver and respiratory tract. It also found more than a dozen other chemicals linked to similar effects as well as dizziness, headaches, muscle weakness, low birth weight, learning disabilities, and toxic impacts to the kidneys, cardiovascular system and reproductive system.

The ShaleTest report warned that even if the chemicals found didn’t exceed the TCEQ exposure limits, those limits have been established for occupational exposures— adults whose exposure is around 40 hours a week— and that there hasn’t been much study done on the impact on children or those exposed all day, every day nor on the synergistic effects of combinations of the chemicals.
“There’s one woman [living across from Degla Park] who can’t hold down a job because she’s always sick, and none of the doctors she’s seen can explain why she has rashes and is constantly nauseated,” Ruggiero told Fort Worth Weekly.  “Another woman has a child whose hair is falling out, and the doctors can’t give her any explanation about why that is happening. If people living near these gas facilities are all coming down with similar symptoms—rashes, nausea, eye problems, nerve issues—well, I think you ought to look to see if there is a connection between those facilities and those symptoms.”

November 4, 2014

Texas Town's Fracking Ban Takes Effect Amid Challenges

A small Texas hamlet north of Dallas has become the first municipality in the state to ban fracking, pitting a town located where fracking was perfected against the powerful energy industry. Voters in the university town of Denton approved a ban on November 4 which took effect Tuesday.

The ban could be a test case for other cities around the country that want to ban fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, which injects a brew of water, sand and chemicals into rock to release hydrocarbons. The practice is the linchpin of a surging energy industry in the United States, but it has been linked to a host of environmental issues, including causing earthquakes. Denton's ban has been challenged by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, which has asked a district county court to declare it invalid and unenforceable. On Monday, Denton's attorneys filed a legal brief that called fracking a "public nuisance," according to The Texas Tribune. Included among the nuisances, the lawyers said, are "noise, increased heavy truck traffic, liquid spills, vibrations and other offensive results."

Denton is located amid the Barnett Shale, a formation rich with natural gas. While fracking has been in practice since the 1940s, energy companies have honed their expertise of the technique in the Barnett Shale formation.


It took just over six months for the Texas legislature to overturn locally passed laws banning fracking.  I’m sure they were probably caught unawares that a couple of towns in Texas had passed such laws, but next time around they’ll be much quicker about denying the will of ordinary Texans and ignoring the health of Texas youngsters. 

Does no one remember the Love Canal anymore?  Sure it was in New York State and happened over thirty years ago but I was able to Google it in about 0.25 seconds. 


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