Posts Tagged ‘Barnett shale’

Is a proposed rule change by the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) going to allow state sanctioned theft of property owners mineral rights? 

Sen. Wendy Davis (D Fort Worth) is asking the Texas Railroad Commission to hold two town hall meetings, including one in Fort Worth, to discuss her concerns that owners of mineral rights in the 24-county Barnett Shale are getting short shrift in proposed rule changes dealing with forced pooling as well as a proliferation of related exceptions the RRC has been granting to two provisions – Rule 37 and the No Perforation Zone permits — both of which were intended to protect property owners from having their mineral rights drained without their permission.

Davis wrote a letter to Commissioners Elizabeth Ames Jones, Michael Williams and David Porter on March 22nd stating, “Very few Texas citizens are aware of these issues or their potential impacts . . . I believe it is your duty to educate the public on these issues and to extend the comment period to adequately include input from the public on these critical issues.”

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) wants to know the reasons for the Texas power generation outages and for the interruptions in natural gas delivery to New Mexico.

As Texas officials began looking into the causes of the Texas electricity blackouts, New Mexico was holding its own hearings.  The ripple effect felt by down pipeline states when Texas’ electric grid and natural gas supplies went awry during an abnormally cold winter storm in February of this has prompted the federal agency to examine how to ensure that a new fleet of natural gas plants around the country can get plenty of fuel.

This has major implications for a state that has been expanding natural gas drilling operations exponentially over the past several years, many think to the detriment of the environment and the health of those who live around those operation.  Just ask the folks in the Barnett Shale region of North Texas.  Some of them might even be able to light their water taps on fire for you.

If you want to learn more about the concerns of citizens living in natural gas drillling areas check out “Gasland,” the Academy Award nominated documentary film by Josh Fox, that examines whether hydraulic fracturing of shale formations threatens water supplies and poses other environmental hazards.  Click here to read our earlier blog about the movie.

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Are desperate school boards having to make decisions about the fiscal health of their districts now vs the long-term health of their charges in the future?

Mike Norman, the editorial director of the Star-Telegram/Arlington and Northeast Tarrant County, writes about the precarious lab rat position of citizens in the Barnett Shale.  Click here to read his editorial.

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Texas Barnett Shale gas drilling rig near Alva...

Image via Wikipedia

I hope you’re going to have a great Oscar night, and while we may all have our favorites for best picture (True Grit was my favorite, but I think The Social Network and The King’s Speech are also very deserving), this year we have one of the most important issues of our time as the subject of one of the nominees for best documentary.

In Gasland, director Josh Fox travels across America to learn about the effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a method to drill for natural gas. Despite the rhetoric about how clean natural gas is compared to other fossil fuels (kind of like saying it’s the least ugly stepsister), fracking is causing major problems across the US.

One of our favorite local bloggers in Texas, TXSharon, has been documenting these same problems living on top of the Barnett Shale. We don’t have a clip we can embed from Gasland, but I’ll use this as a placeholder:

Fox’s filmmaking is beautiful, frightening, humorous where possible, wry, and dismally depressing all at the same time. But he educates you on this terrible problem seeping up from the ground, and he makes you a little bit hopeful that we can find ways to get energy that don’t destroy our water supplies. That don’t ruin suburban neighborhoods or productive farmland.

And ultimately why it should win is because it’s fairly obvious the truth it is telling is far too dangerous to those who profit from fracking with our water. The natural gas industry has been on a months-long crusade to try to discredit Gasland, even going so far as to try to get it declared ineligible to receive the award, and if Hollywood bows to the pressure it will be an even worse tragedy than allowing them to censor The King’s Speech so it can get a PG-13 rating.

Also, Id like to see it win because it features my favorite EPA Regional Administrator, Dr. Al Armendariz, talking about his research about how the drilling from the Barnett Shale in suburban Ft Worth is creating more pollution than all of the cars and trucks in the Dallas/Ft Worth area combined. It also features Cal Tillman, the mayor of the little town of Dish, TX, who recently sold his home in Dish because of health problems his family was having from the drilling. He made the new buyer watch Gasland before they bought the house. These real, but amazing, subjects in the documentary are folks I’m proud to rub shoulders with here in Texas.

Enjoy the Academy Awards, hopefully surrounded by some good, geeky friends and family. And even if “Exit Through the Gift Shop” wins for best documentary, make sure you see Gasland as soon as possible.

Cross-posted at BigShinyRobot.com where I occasionally blog about geeky stuff under the pseudonym CitizenBot

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The protests in Wisconsin. The passage of the CR in the House in the dead of night over the weekend. And the continued debate over how to balance the Texas $26 billion budget gap. We kept getting told there are no sacred cows- that all have to share in the burden and pain of budget squeezing.

But realpolitik has shown exactly where the real sacred cows are, while corporate tea party crusaders use the budget crises as a reason to bust unions, raid pensions funds, and slash health services and education budgets, they are leaving intact the tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

Let’s talk Texas first:  a new study out this morning by the Texas Tribune showed that Texans want a balanced approach to fixing the budget.  The single most popular answer was a 50/50 split of revenue enhancements and spending cuts.  However, when you asked people what they wanted to cut spending on, the answer was a resounding NO! to educationTexans say no to budget cuts cuts, NO! to health services cuts, NO! to environmental reg cuts. And when asked where to increase revenue, it was equally sticky.  The single most popular options, the only ones which get over 50% support, was to legalize casino gambling and increase alcohol taxes.  But taxing vice can only get us so far.

One of the things not touched by the poll were the enormous tax breaks we give to the natural gas industry, one which the LBB has suggested eliminating, namely a $7.4 billion tax cut to oil and gas companies using “high cost” wells- which generally means one thing: hydro-fracturing. Fracking is used on areas like the Barnett Shale and has been linked to spoiled water, a cancer cluster located in Flower Mound/Dish, and natural gas turning tap water flammable, and a garden hose into a flamethrower.

At the very least, all of the drilling is producing more air pollution than all of the cars and trucks in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. So to add insult to industry, not only is the drilling on the Barnett Shale ruining families’ homes and making people sick, but we are paying the companies billions of dollars in pork to do it, robbing school children and those who need a hand from social services.

And to kick us even more when we’re down, Chesapeake Energy has the audacity to say if their corporate welfare goes away, they’re going to have to curtail drilling on the Barnett Shale.  From the Star-Telegram’s story:

An executive with Chesapeake Energy told members of the Tarrant County legislative delegation Wednesday that the company would consider curtailing activity in Texas if the exemption is discontinued.

“We’d have to look at it on an individual well basis, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that we would reduce our activity in the state of Texas,” Adam Haynes, senior government affairs director for Chesapeake, said after his appearance before lawmakers. “It certainly affects the Barnett Shale, absolutely.” (more…)

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Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay)

Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay)

Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) said he expects to act on legislation (Senate Bill 527) that would allow the state to tap into funds from the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan to pay for air monitoring activities near natural gas drilling operations.  North Texas Senate Republicans Chris Harris, Craig Estes, Jane Nelson and Florence Shapiro along with Democrat Royce West have signed on as co-authors.

Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth)

Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth)

Late last year, Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) filed a bill (Senate Bill 102) that would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to tap TERP funds to “conduct short-term and long-term air quality monitoring” to gauge the levels of such pollutants as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds near various natural gas operations in the Barnett.

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Even CSI is talking about fracking

According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Barnett Shale natural gas fields of Denton and Wise counties are one of five finalists to be considered for a case study as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) examination of hydraulic fracturing.  

That is not a competition I would want to win, but if I were facing possible contamination of drinking-water supplies from oil and gas industry operations in areas where drilling and hydraulic fracturing have already occurred, I’d want to know what the extent of that pollution was.

Nevertheless. a Texas organizer for the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, expressed concern Wednesday about the study, stating she felt EPA would be using “people as guinea pigs.”  She called for the leaders in those Texas communities to consider placing a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until after the study is complete (like that is going to happen–sadly probably not) and use some other community for the study. (more…)

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TransCanada has filed more than a dozen lawsuits to condemn land along the route of its Keystone XL oil pipeline in western South Dakota, trying to force the 47 percent of the landowners who hadn’t signed easement agreements along the states portion of the Keystone XL route, even though it hasn’t received the federal permit it needs to go ahead with the project.

The lawsuits come at a time of growing opposition to the 1,660-mile pipeline, which would carry oil from tar sands fields in Alberta, Canada, and pass through several states, including South Dakota, on its way to terminals on the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists have joined landowners to lobby against the project all the way down the route, from Montana to Texas.

Because the project would cross an international border, TransCanada also needs a presidential permit from the State Department. The decision, which hinges on the results of an amended environmental impact statement, will be forthcoming within weeks and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is inclined to grant it.

Keystone Pipeline Route

Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline Route

Landowners in Texas along the pipeline who haven’t been happy with their dealings with Keystone XL have already received letters threatening eminent domain action and Senators Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) and Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) recently filed a bill (SB 18) that appears to be favorable to pipeline projects in their use of eminent domain and is moving through the legislature quickly.  Citizens in the Barnett Shale region have already begun to express concerns about how this might affect their property rights.  Those along the Keystone XL pipeline route, might want to keep an eye on this bill too.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas

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“Gasland,” the documentary film by Josh Fox, that examines whether hydraulic fracturing of shale formations threatens water supplies and poses other environmental hazards, was nominated today for an Academy Award.GasLand

The movie is a cross-country tour that included visits to people who live near several drilling sites, including North Texas’ Barnett Shale.

If you want to see this documentary before the Oscars it is probably not going to be shown in a theater near you anytime soon, but it is available on Amazon or through the movie’s website, or you can even rent it through netflix.

Of course, the gas industry is getting verklempt!  They would prefer you talk amongst yourselves about any other movie, and they’ll gladly give you a topic . . . The Prince of Tides was about neither a prince nor tides. Go!  

However, if you still want to talk or watch something about fracking check out some of our earlier posts that talk about the fracking issue being addressed in the popular medium of TV in both a 60 Minutes segment and an episode of CSI.

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The controversy over Barnett Shale natural gas drilling or “fracking” that has overcome Fort Worth and Tarrant County since 2002 has, in recent months, drawn public attention nationally – first to the money to be made by mineral rights owners, then to the inconveniences of drilling for those who live around it, and, more recently, to a heightened concern about the potential environmental and health impacts of this concentrated activity in a densely populated urban area.

Less attention has been paid to another hard fact of Barnett Shale drilling: Not a single well goes into production without a network of pipelines to take the gas to market.

There are about 2,700 wells in Tarrant County alone and 15,000 in the 23-county Barnett Shale formation, according to the latest Railroad Commission data. With 241 companies active in the field, drilling won’t stop any time soon.

So now it’s time — past time, really — for elected officials and state and local agencies to focus more attention on the proliferation of pipelines and whether they are being done right.

A study of that issue resulted in a report, “The State of Natural Gas Pipelines in Fort Worth”  that was done for the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods.  Researchers studied gas pipelines in the region over a year-long period and put forth 26 recommendations for federal, state and local lawmakers and regulators, the pipeline industry and the citizens of Fort Worth.

The report’s recommendations highlight the need to bring local residents into the pipeline-planning process early on, giving them more information about what makes for a safe pipeline and more ability to make an informed decision about whether they can live with what’s being proposed for their neighborhood.

Texas has thousands of miles of pipelines for gathering, transmitting and distributing oil and natural gas. Pipeline failures are few and far between. It’s just that any such failure can be catastrophic. 

If you live in an area where natural gas fracking is or could potentially occur, you might want to take a look at this report, “The State of Natural Gas Pipelines in Fort Worth”.

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Andy Wilson talking at a press conference on campaign finance in the Railroad Commission at the Texas Capitol


Hey folks, here’s our press release about the report I’ve been slaving away over working on. Money’s a problem at the Railroad Commission. How bad? You have no idea. Read on, if you dare, and join us for our 1pm press conference in the Speaker’s press room in the Texas Capitol.

Sweeping changes are needed at the Texas Railroad Commission because of the huge amount of industry money being poured into the campaign coffers of sitting commissioners, a study released today by Public Citizen found.

The report, “Drilling for Dollars: How Big Money Has a Big Influence at the Railroad Commission,” details how fundraising by incumbents increased 688 percent between 2000 and 2008. It also shows that the biggest driver of the increase was donations from individuals associated with the fossil fuel industries – the same industries the commission is charged with regulating.

“We need fundamental reform at the Texas Railroad Commission,” said Andy Wilson, a campaign finance researcher with Public Citizen and one of the authors of the report. “The Legislature needs to change how railroad commissioners are elected or do away with electing commissioners all together.”

Cover of report Drilling for Dollars

The report details where the commissioners’ campaign money is coming from. By 2010, 80 percent of all donations to incumbents were from industry, up from 45 percent in 2000. The volume of donations from industry also increased nearly fivefold, from just over $420,000 in 2000 to more than $2 million in 2008. And while “big money” has always played a role, it has gotten even larger: In 2000, 80 percent of all money came in donations of $1,000 or more; by 2008, it was 85 percent and an astounding 92 percent for 2010.

“The Sunset Advisory Commission called campaign fundraising a ‘possible conflict of interest,’ and that is putting it mildly,” Wilson said. “What we see is the absolute domination of campaign money by the fossil fuel industries in Texas. One of every two dollars raised by sitting railroad commissioners comes from individuals and corporations whose fortunes rest upon the decisions made by the commission. Commissioners may play coy and act innocent – they may not even see themselves as being influenced – but the people writing the checks know exactly what they are doing.”

This is of particular concern to Texans because decisions made at the railroad commission affect them every day. Charged with regulating the oil and gas industry, the Texas Railroad Commission has failed to protect Texas families who live on top of the Barnett Shale. Gas drilling on the shale contributes more to air pollution than all of the cars and trucks in the Dallas-Fort Worth region combined, according to research done while at Southern Methodist University by EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Armindariz. And just this week the EPA issued an endangerment order, ordering gas drillers to clean up contaminated drinking water.

Public Citizen’s report examined and catalogued campaign finance disclosures from the Texas Ethics Commission and identified those individuals and entities who identified themselves as being a part of the fossil fuel industry, a lobbyist or from a law firm. Concerned industry insiders and other public interest advocacy groups identified additional individuals and entities as being members of the industry.

The Texas Railroad Commission is undergoing a sunset review, mandatory every 12 years for every Texas state agency. In a special session of the Legislature in 2009, the review of the railroad commission, along with several other state agencies, was moved up by two years to be done in the 82nd Legislature, which convenes in January. The Sunset Advisory Commission will hear public testimony on the railroad commission on Wednesday at the State Capitol.

A copy of the report can be found at: http://www.citizen.org/drillingfordollars


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.


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Barnett Shale

The Texas Railroad Commission (RCC) will hold a special hearing January 10th to look into the complaints of methane in two Parker County drinking water wells that prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week to order a natural gas drilling company to take steps to remediate the problem.  The RRC has not yet  posted the starting time or place but we will let you know as we hear more.

Both the Railroad Commission and Range Resources, which drilled the Barnett Shale gas wells near the two homes affected by the methane-laden water, accused the EPA of acting in haste when they issued an order of remediation late Tuesday.  Both the RRC and Range Resources claimed there was insufficient evidence to blame drilling operations for the situation.  But critics of the drilling operations in North Texas suggested that the Railroad Commission was acting more as a booster than a regulator of the natural gas industry.

In its emergency order, the EPA said that its testing suggests that the gases found in the water and gases from Range’s wells “are likely to be from the same source.” The EPA also pointed out that there were no reports of methane in either of the two water wells that were drilled in 2002 and 2005 until after Range sunk its nearby gas wells in 2009.

In the Railroad Commission’s response to the EPA order, all three commissioners suggested the federal agency was needlessly overstepping its authority. And the commission included a detailed timeline showing the progress of its own investigation into the affected drinking water wells.

If you live in the Barnett Shale region and are concerned, we urge you to attend this hearing.  We will post details about the hearing as soon as they are available.

If you are concerned that the RailRoad Commission is not being protective of the health and well-being of Texans, consider attending the Sunset Advisory Commission‘s hearing on the RRC and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality next week, December 15th.  See our earlier blog for details.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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We’re always pleased to post what’s going on with blogs around the state from our friends at the TPA.  Lots of blog posts seemed to revolve around the conviction of Tom DeLay, which we would like to point out that we posted on first here.

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes you got your recommended allowance of tryptophan last week as it brings you the blog highlights.

Off the Kuff celebrates the DeLay verdict.

Bay Area Houston has a visual suggest to the Judge in the Tom DeLay trial on what to do with DeLay.

Did employers or their representatives provide ‘assistance’ to their employees as they voted in La Joya? CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme would really like to know.

Public Citizen over at TexasVox is getting ready for the Sunset hearings on the TCEQ and Railroad Commission coming up December 15-16 by looking at a national report which gives Texas’ regulatory agencies a D-.

Lightseeker raises a red flag over the morphing of the MSM coverage of Tom DeLay’s conviction. In his piece entitled The DeLay verdict – Politics as usual? Crime and Punishment? Why it Matters he argues that this is simply a case study in why we find it so hard to get our message out. Either out of boredom or malice or laziness or simple lack of time or understanding the MSM often carries water for the other side in how they cover/frame important issues. He wonders what can be done?

Republicans in the Texas Legislature filed a series of anti-immigrant bills, so, Stace at DosCentavos asks the question: Are You Willing to Boycott Texas? It’s a serious question that will come up as these bills go through the process and quite possibly get to the floor.

Sen Jeff Wentworth pre-filed legislation for the coming session that eliminates straight-ticket voting. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs thinks he’s a lone voice of reason on the right.

Reverend Manny at BlueBloggin takes an in depth look at freedom of speech. On the whole, the September FBI crackdowns are symbolic, and a local reminder, of an international repressive wave against transparency, criticism and rational, open dialogue. The Front Lines of Reality: An International Perspective on the Battle over Free Speech.

WhosPlayin brings you a video tour of one of the modern drilling rigs that one company is using to drill in urban areas in the Barnett Shale.

Neil at Texas Liberal visited Austin this past week. He enjoyed his late night drive back home to Houston a great deal. Neil liked this ride so much, he wrote a blog post listing seven reasons the ride was so enjoyable.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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On Sunday, November 14th, 60 minutes will run a segment on the controvercial process of hydrolic fracturing (also known as fracking) for extracting natural gas.  Much of the footage was shot around the Barnett Shale near and in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where residents are grappling with a plethora of potential problems from compressor stations emitting known carcinogens such as benzene, to the poor lining of wells after drilling that has led some water taps to literally spout flames, all associated with the full set of activities needed to produce natural gas (see our earlier blog about the focus of a Town Hall meeting regarding the Texas Sunset process and the two agencies in Texas who regulate this process). 

60 Minutes Segment on FrackingThe “60 Minutes” episode is entitled  SHALEIONAIRES and below is a brief description of the segment.

SHALEIONAIRES – While some complain that extracting natural gas from shale rock formations is tainting their water supply, others who have allowed drilling on their property are getting wealthy and becoming “shaleionaires.” Lesley Stahl reports. Shachar Bar-On and Meghan Frank are the producers.

You can watch this episode on CBS on Sunday, November 14th at 6 pm CT.  If you missed it, click here to catch it online.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - "Fracked"

Even CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is taking a look at "Fracking"


CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – FRACKED –  Click here to watch the episode as the CSI team investigates the murder of two men who were about to expose a natural gas conglomerate of poisoning residents in a farming town.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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