Static is underwhelmed with the news, reported last Friday on WFAA-TV/Channel 8, that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has discovered elevated levels of cancer-causing benzene “in the air near some natural gas facilities … around the Barnett Shale.”

It wasn’t the reporting that was unimpressive – Chris Hawes did a terrific job on the story. Rather it’s TCEQ, which waited until private studies had been done by both landowner Deborah Rogers and the town of DISH before the agency began to do its own studies. TCEQ officials had to have known they would find benzene and a lot more in the air, on the ground, and in the water around gas facilities. More than a year ago, studies done in Garfield, Colo., another hotbed of gas drilling activity, showed not only elevated levels of benzene, but also that well-flaring produced naphthalene, toluene, xylenes, and a host of other dangerous chemicals you probably don’t want your children breathing. And water studies in Garfield demonstrated that out of 184 water sources tested, 135 “had detectable levels of methane.”

The TCEQ study is expected to be finished and its findings reported by year’s end. There’s some speed for you.


The gem of Hawes’ story, though, was a quote from Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, from a written statement (of course) in response to the TCEQ finding. “Identifying the impacts of gas drilling on our neighborhoods and to the health and safety of our citizens remains a top priority,” he said, and called for more studies to be done.

Oh that Mike, he’s a card. Who does he think he’s kidding? It was his decision to take away the 2008 Gas Drilling Task Force’s authority to consider environmental issues, and it was his staff that wrote the section of the drilling ordinance allowing compressor stations to be placed in any zoning area of the city. And it’s Moncrief who has bullied the city council into ramming inner-city drilling down the residents’ throats.

“Moncrief’s statement was good for a laugh, at best,” said anti-drilling activist Don Young. “He’s been pushing gas on Fort Worth endlessly, and he had to know the dangers that come with it, having lived off gas and oil his whole life. And now he’s trying to take the high road and says the safety of the public has always been his concern. That’s not the high road, just the height of hypocrisy.”

Hawes also got this gem out of Jay Ewing, a Devon Energy spokesman: “The good part of it is we’re not putting emissions into the atmosphere … .” And there was the Chesapeake Energy statement that they’ve long made emission-capturing a priority. Riiight. Neither of the energy giants bothers with the available gadgetry that would actually capture most poisonous emissions, and Chesapeake flares its wells all over the Barnett Shale.

All that’s missing is a Sarah Palin “You betcha!” and a wink to the hometown fans to complete this Dali-esque tableau.