Eagle Ford Fracking: Texas Doing Little To Protect Residents From Pollution

Screen shot 2014-02-18 at 9.31.33 AM
Graphic illustration from InsideClimate News collaborative investigation.

An eight-month investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, InsideClimate News and The Weather Channel reveals Texas has done next to nothing to protect people in the Eagle Ford’s booming shale play from rising industry pollution.

This is a must-read investigative piece. Key findings are included below along with a link to the story, but those of you in San Antonio may find it interesting that, according to this work, the only real air-monitoring expansion across the “play” is being done to model impacts on San Antonio air to protect our big-city economy. Those in the oil patch itself are getting shafted.

Key findings include:

  • Texas’ air monitoring system is so flawed that the state knows almost nothing about the extent of the pollution in the Eagle Ford. Only five permanent air monitors are installed in the 20,000-square-mile region, and all are at the fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest.
  • Companies that break the law are rarely fined. Of the 284 oil and gas industry-related complaints filed with the TCEQ by Eagle Ford residents between Jan. 1, 2010, and Nov. 19, 2013, only two resulted in fines despite 164 documented violations. The largest was just $14,250. (Pending enforcement actions could lead to six more fines).
  • The Texas legislature has cut the TCEQ’s budget by a third since the Eagle Ford boom began, from $555 million in 2008 to $372 million in 2014. At the same time, the amount allocated for air monitoring equipment dropped from $1.2 million to $579,000.
  • The Eagle Ford boom is feeding an ominous trend: A 100 percent statewide increase in unplanned, toxic air releases associated with oil and gas production since 2009. Known as emission events, these releases are usually caused by human error or faulty equipment.
  • Residents of the mostly rural Eagle Ford counties are at a disadvantage even in Texas, because they haven’t been given air quality protections, such as more permanent monitors, provided to the wealthier, more suburban Barnett Shale region near Dallas-Fort Worth.

Read the full story, “Fracking Boom Spews Toxic Air Emissions on Texas Residents,” at Inside Climate News.