Air Commission: Fort Worth Gas Production Safe

Published February 1, 2010

Natural gas drilling in the Fort Worth, Texas metropolitan area is releasing few or no hazardous emissions, and producers are complying with state health standards at all locations, reports the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The Commission released its findings after conducting a comprehensive study of natural gas sites in response to environmental activists’ assertions the natural gas sites were endangering public health and should be shut down.

Over 100 Sites Tested
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) reported on January 12 the testing results of 126 Barnett Shale natural gas production sites in the Fort Worth area. Each site was tested for 22 different toxic chemicals, and none of the sites exceeded short- or long-term health and safety standards.

TCEQ on January 26 reported the results of tests at an additional 18 sites in the Fort Worth area. All but two of the sites met state health standards at all times. Neither of the two remaining sites raised much concern. One site barely exceeded state emissions standards and was quickly and readily brought into compliance. The other site was located in an area where the general public was unlikely to be exposed to emissions, and it too was quickly brought into compliance.

Kathleen Hartnett-White, director of the Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and a past chairwoman of TCEQ, said there is “no evidence that shale-gas extraction in Fort Worth leads to excessively high levels of toxic emissions like benzene.”

“Of course, any irresponsible driller should be held accountable, but based on the findings of Texas’ environmental regulator, Fort Worth residents have no reason at all to be alarmed by natural-gas drilling in the Fort Worth area,” Hartnett-White said.

‘Hyping a Non-Problem’
Dr. Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis agrees.

“This is just another instance of environmentalists ‘blowing the whistle’ on an industry that is doing nothing wrong,” Burnett said. Environmental activists are “hyping a non-problem in order to try to control industrial development and people’s access to relatively cheap, reliable fossil fuel energy,” said Burnett.

Catching a Bad Rap
Chris Tucker, spokesperson for the energy coalition Energy in Depth, said U.S. natural-gas drillers have a safe and responsible track record.

“Never before has an energy technology as safe, efficient, and widespread as hydraulic fracturing been attacked as breathlessly, and frankly stupidly, as it is today,” says Tucker. “We’re talking about a technology that helps producers today access 10 times the energy by drilling one-tenth the number of wells, dramatically cutting down on disturbances to land.

“It is a technology that produces some the cleanest, most powerful energy, and has for the past 60 years,” he added. “It is a technology that’s deployed literally two miles beneath the water table, with millions of tons of impermeable rock isolating the areas that carry natural gas from the areas that support drinking water.”

Drew Thornley ([email protected]) writes from Texas.