U.S. residents are increasingly banding together to fight an energy industry that is creating industrial work sites in the middle of neighborhoods and threatening air and water quality.

Environmentalists are trying to change laws written to benefit and protect the industry against certain regulations. Some are paying for independent air quality tests that show evidence of benzene and other carcinogens polluting the air near natural gas sites.

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Dave Michaels of The Dallas Morning News follows the impact of a slowdown in production and the trickle down effect on Texas universities, in the event President Barack Obama gets his way on trimming tax incentives and research funding for domestic production.

Some see the budget cuts as a necessary sacrifice, a natural progression of moving toward renewable energy.

Fossil fuel producers see it as an attack on their treasure chests, and a challenge to their long history of enjoying laws stacked in their favor.

And since the guys with the treasure chests command the power in Austin and Washington D.C., toughening laws won’t be easy. Don’t think the battle won’t get noisy.

Make your voice heard if you feel one way or the other.


  1. Deborah Rogers, president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods, made her voice heard. Here’s a letter she wrote to the Fort Worth City Council after viewing reports on recent air tests:

    Dear Mr. Mayor and Members of Council,

    The Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) released its final report last week regarding air testing in the Barnett Shale region. After careful review of both the toxicology and the final report, it becomes clear that gas drilling activity is indeed having a detrimental effect on our air quality in North Texas. Unfortunately, the citizens and the Council have been given information which at times is inconsistent and puzzling.

    The report indicates that high levels of benzene are at approximately 1 of every 2 facilities. A total of 43 facilities were tested and 21 were found to have benzene levels “higher than TCEQ would like to see.” This is important to note because as citizens we live next to facilities and will be affected by any point source at that facility which is emitting toxins. They went on to state that “gas production facilities can, and in some cases do, emit contaminants in amounts that could be deemed unsafe.”

    According to TCEQ’s Toxicology Report, “twenty one facilities (52 samples) in 12 geographic locations registered benzene above long term health based screening levels”, or roughly half of all facilities tested.

    In addition to the findings of benzene, elevated levels of carbon disulfide, ethane, 1,2 dibromethane and isopentane were detected above short term health based comparisons at some sites. In total, “35 chemicals were detected above appropriate short term comparisons” . The addition of these chemicals simply adds to the toxic mixture in our air.

    Further, NOx was detected in multiple samples and as we all know NOx is a primary constituent of ozone. Odorous compounds which could cause odor related illness were also found at high concentrations.

    Further, on January 12, we were told that 126 sites had been tested in Ft. Worth. But of these 126 sites only eight canister samples were actually taken. Most of the sites had merely been screened with infra red cameras and vapor analyzers, neither of which is designed to test ambient air. Further these electronic devices can be compromised in cold weather. Eight samples do not indicate a comprehensive review. Dr. Honeycutt, Chief Toxicologist of TCEQ, made a statement recently to the Star Telegram that the first round of tests in Ft. Worth was “more of a screening. We’re not done in Ft. Worth by any stretch of the imagination. ”

    So where does this leave us as citizens? What picture are we meant to draw from this rather dense and at times confusing information?

    It is this. While TCEQ does plan to implement changes that are designed to mitigate some of the detrimental effects of drilling, the fact remains that they only have 17 inspectors for the entire Barnett Shale region. That is 1 inspector for approximately every 1000 wells and this does not include compressor stations and all the other peripheral equipment needed which also require inspection. In the case of compressor stations, these can indeed be of greatest concern. In short, TCEQ cannot possibly police this effectively or adequately. The drilling activity has simply grown too large. We are asking them to do the impossible.

    The only way to adequately protect our families, homes and businesses is to implement changes to the gas drilling ordinance which would impose more stringent requirements and thereby lessen the burden of policing. Further on-going monitoring must be conducted for the life of the wells and this cost should be borne by the operators as part of the permit process and considered a normal cost of doing business in such a densely populated area. Contractual obligations with local universities who have in-house testing capabilities could be entered into on behalf of the City which would be highly cost effective and thereby keep testing independent of both the City and the operators.

    Technologies exist which are inexpensive and can reduce emissions by 99%. In fact, in a recent memorandum by EPA it was stated that if the operators implement pollution technology and capture the methane which can then be sold, such technologies pay for themselves typically in about 2 months. These technologies must be imposed by the ordinance. There is no excuse for not utilizing them when they are this inexpensive.

    We now have our answer as to the effects on an immediate neighborhood by one of these facilities. The State has confirmed our fears. The air in North Texas is indeed being adversely affected by drilling activity. There are myriad other questions which remain to be answered such as the extent of carbon disulfide and other toxic contamination in addition to the benzene. Carbon disulfide and reduced sulfur compounds are being detected at pad sites in Ft. Worth and Denton County in private testing. This will only exacerbate the problem. We must act responsibly to ensure that our health and safety are protected. We must face this head-on and through responsible action make Ft. Worth the beacon she deserves to be in North Texas.

    Deborah Rogers

  2. Excellent letter Deborah. My only concern is that even if we can force operators to trap their emissions we still have to deal with the water issues, property value issues and salt water disposal issues. If by chance we can get a handle on those things the fact that our thousands of acres of FW green space have been permanently removed and possibly contaminated. As drilling progresses thousands more acres are removed. How much greenspace can we afford to lose and still consider FW a good place to live and raise our families? IMO we have already reached the threshold. BTW: Whatever happened to your call for a moratorium until these pipe dreams are achieved?

  3. Texas universities need to get out of Big Gas’ and Big Oil’s pockets anyway so we can get some unbiased research! Faculty like UNT’s John Baen, who use their influence to shill for the shale should loose tenure. It’s a betrayal of public trust!

    State universities are raising tuition AGAIN so it seems the Barnett Shale “economic boom” has not been all that profitable for our state.

    Shifting research focus to renewable energy will bring in money to Texas universities, protect the communities that support those universities and move Texas to a cleaner future.

  4. Don is correct. The issues are multi layered. It is far past time for a moratorium. We need a master plan
    if we expect to have ANY chance of retaining our quality of life.

  5. Man, there’s MATH involved in this discussion? It is becoming apparent that all this RUSH industrialize the B.S. area will only benefit–some in obscene amount$– the industrial-politico complex and a handfull of large land owners with mineral rights. The net result AND the cumulative effect for the average person, many don’t even own mineral rights, and for the various communities/municipalities and the north Texas region itself will be losses, damages, and injuries of all kinds including economic, financial, physical, psychological, environmental, and legal. All these things can be summed up with the word and meaning behind “legacy”– how do our current decisions and actions reflect on the legacy passed down to us AND how do they affect the future generations inheriting our legacy to them? What adjectives will they use to describe us? Hopefully not irresponsible, apathetic, reckless, short-sighted, or even selfish and cowardly.

  6. I am so sick of this. People if you are so concerned with this why don’t you stop all the cars and trucks from driving on the streets and putting out pollution. stop refineries. Stop air planes from flying. And for the ones of you that smoke stop it causes cancer, COPD, emphizema. stop drinking alcohol it causes cerosis of the liver. Make sure that all drinking water is safe. recycle.How many of you use Gas to heat your Home.
    These guys go out there everyday on these drilling rigs and work there tails off and for what. To hear people bitch. Most of you did not have a problem with this while you were getting your big bonus check for leasing your minerals. Stop and think these guys in the oil and gas business have families too. They need their jobs.