Yes, folks, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is shocked to find there is gambling going on in this establishment. The “establishment” here, of course, is the whole Barnett Shale play, and gambling is what the drilling industry has been doing with our health.

Finally, after years of unheeded citizen complaints, after how many years of people being annoyed, worried, and in some cases sickened by the air pollution coming off drilling operations, the state environmental agency has figured out that about 20 percent of gas drilling operations are releasing worrisome amounts of benzene into the air.

It really is wonderful news that TCEQ has finally made this determination – and even better that the agency is now talking about changing the way it oversees the air quality effects of drilling operations.


But come on, folks – why did it take a gutsy mayor from a courageous little town and his council’s decision to spend a major chunk of the town budget on a private air quality study, to get the agency off its duff? How many people have had their health seriously, perhaps permanently, affected by drilling pollution that TCEQ, until now, refused to take seriously? Why does the state agency charged with enforcing state and federal clean-air standards have to be beaten to a bloody pulp in the ring of public opinion before it chooses to do its job?

And why, two years ago, did Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief take environmental concerns off the table when this city’s drilling ordinance was being developed?

What’s next – a gas company bowing to neighborhood opposition and giving up its application to drill multiple wells in a site close to many homes?

Truly, the age of miracles is upon us.


Filling Their Bellies

Speaking of needed miracles, consider this statistic: One in eight Tarrant County residents had to ask for help last year, from places like church pantries, soup kitchens, and food banks, to keep themselves and their families from going hungry.

That’s the sobering local headline from a larger report released Tuesday, billed as the most comprehensive study ever conducted on hunger in the United States. The study was done by Feeding America, the national network of food banks to which the Tarrant Area Food Bank belongs. The Tarrant area group, and the network of smaller charities for which it provides food, served about 280,000 people last year – up almost 80 percent from the numbers of folks they served just four years earlier.

According to the Tarrant food bank, the study illustrated how the recession has pushed low-income families deeper into poverty, forcing them to choose between putting food on the table and paying rent or buying gas for the car.

The economy may be beginning to perk back up, slowly if not surely. And it may not be totally the “jobless recovery” that had been feared. But the hunger study is a stark reminder that happy days are not here again for many, many folks in our communities – folks who would be in even deeper trouble were it not for the volunteers and faith-based groups that run most of the emergency food system here and elsewhere, and the donors who keep organizations like the Tarrant Area Food Bank going.

Want to join that list of donors? The Souper Bowl of Caring, allowing food-shoppers to donate through their local grocery stores, runs through this Sunday. It helps restock food bank supplies that tend to run low after the hoopla of holiday giving has come and gone. And on Feb. 19 is the food bank’s annual Empty Bowls event, where locals who buy tickets ahead of time get to sample the offerings of lots of local chefs and go home with a one-of-a kind bowl created by a local artisan. For more info on those events, go to