Texas and fracking

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If Texas were a country, it would be the third largest producer of natural gas in the world, behind Russia and the rest of the U.S. Despite the increase in fracking, the state has never matched its peak gas production level of 26.3 bcf/day in 1972.[1]

As of March 2012 Texas had listed nearly 6,000 oil and gas fracking wells on FracFocus, an industry fracking disclosure site. The Texas list was by far the most of any state in the country.[2] In 2011, Texas had about 93,000 natural-gas wells, up from around 58,000 in 2000.[3] According to the Texas Railroad Commission, more than 15,300 wells have been drilled in the Barnett Shale underlying Texas.[4]

Between 2009 and 2014, shale gas production more than doubled.[5]


Barnett Shale: An Aerial View

Some have suggested the Barnett Shale underlying Texas may contain the largest producible reserves of any onshore natural gas field in the United States. Industry analysts say the field is proven to have 2.5×1012 cu ft (71 km3) of natural gas, and has been estimated to contain as much as 30×1012 cu ft (850 km3) of natural gas resources. Oil also has been found in lesser quantities. The Barnett Shale is known as a "tight" gas reservoir, indicating that the gas is not easily extracted without hydraulic fracturing.[6]

Major portions of the field are in urban areas, including the rapidly growing Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, creating controversy within different communities over whether and how fracking of the Barnett Shale should be allowed.[7]

In July 2010, ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy finalized a merger agreement with Ellora Energy, adding 46,000 acres to XTO's reserves in the Haynesville and Bossier plays of east Texas.[8]


Photo courtesy of geology.com

It has been argued that the first "frac job" - creating fractures from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations - was performed in 1947,[9] but that the current fracking technique was not used on a commercial scale until the 1990s, in the Barnett Shale in Texas.[10] The first Barnett Shale well was completed in 1981 in Wise County, Texas.[11] Drilling expanded greatly in the early 2000s due to higher natural gas prices and use of horizontal wells to increase production. Texas Shale Forum

Shale plays

Barnett Shale

The Barnett Shale is a geological formation of sedimentary rocks with oil and gas resources. The productive part of the formation is estimated to stretch from the city of Dallas west and south, covering 5,000 square miles (13,000 km²) and 18 counties.[12] In contrast to older shale gas plays, such as the Antrim Shale, the New Albany Shale, and the Ohio Shale, the Barnett Shale completions are much deeper (up to 8,000 feet). The thickness of the Barnett varies from 100 to 1000 feet, but most economic wells are located where the shale is between 300 and 600 feet thick. The success of the Barnett has spurred exploration of other deep shales for more deposits.

In 2007, the Barnett shale (Newark East) gas field produced 1.11 cubic feet of gas, making it the second-largest source of natural gas in the United States.[13] By mid-2012 the Barnett had produced 10 tcf of gas, accounting for approximately 50% of all modern shale gas production.[14]

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated in 2015 that the Barnett Shale contains recoverable mean volumes of 53 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas, 172 million barrels of shale oil and 176 million barrels of natural gas liquids. This estimate is double the 2003 USGS assessment. The 2003 estimate relied took in account only vertical drilling, and did not account for horizontal.[15]

Pearsall Shale, Texas

Operators have completed approximately 50 wells in the Pearsall Shale in the Maverick Basin of south Texas. The most active company in the play has been the former TXCO Resources, although EnCana and Anadarko Petroleum have also acquired large land positions in the basin.[citation needed]

Eagle Ford Shale

The Eagle Ford Shale is a sedimentary rock formation from the Late Cretaceous age underlying much of South and East Texas in United States, consisting of organic matter-rich fossiliferous marine shale. It derives its name from the old community of Eagle Ford, now a neighborhood in West Dallas, where outcrops of the Eagle Ford Shale were first observed. Such outcrops can be seen in the geology of the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex, and are labeled on images with the label "Kef". The Eagle Ford Shale is one of the most actively drilled targets for oil and gas in the United States in 2010.[16]

According to researchers at Earthworks, locals near the Eagle Ford Shale are exposed to benzene and other chemicals that leak from from pipelines, wells, compressor station facilities that transport gas and oil.[17]

Economic impacts

TX drilling permits.jpg

A Fort Worth Star-Telegram article reported over 100,000 new leases were recorded in Tarrant County in 2007. Terms of leases have included $15,000 per acre ($37,000/ha) and a 25% royalty for homeowners in Ryan Place, Mistletoe Heights, and Berkley on Fort Worth's south side, and $22,500 per acre and a 25% royalty for a group of homeowners in south Arlington. Later articles in the Fort Worth Weekly report that many signed lease agreements have not been honored, with lessors alleging that they were paid significantly less than promised or were not paid at all.[18][19]

Drilling industry advocacy groups claim that by 2015 the Barnett Shale may be responsible for more than 108,000 jobs.[20] Offsets to tax revenues may include cleanup costs for toxic byproducts of gas drilling, such as benzene and naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM).[21] Environmental groups and state regulators have come under increasing pressure to begin forcing cleanups, and one group, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, has sued to force the EPA to tighten regulations.[22]

In 2015 the greater Houston area lost 40,000 oil related jobs.[23]

The Wall Street Journal reported in September 2015 that a number of fracking investment groups operating in Texas are financially suffering. Small well service companies like Pro-Stim Services, who competed with other hydraulic fracturing providers like Halliburton and Schlumberger filed for bankruptcy when the price crude dropped between Summer 2014 and early 2015.[24]

Fort Worth based, Compass Well Services, was formed in 2010 to frack wells. The Wall Street Journal reports that by September 2015 Compass continues doing other oil field work, its fracking operation is idled.[25].

September 2015 also brought a 75% decrease in shares for publicly traded and Houston based, Key Energy Services Inc. and Basic Energy Services.[26]

Social impacts

Natural gas emissions at Geosouthern Energy Jordan A&B facility in Eagle Ford Shale

Proximity to schools

In 2012, a spatial database being built and used by the Department of Geography at the University of North Texas found a disparity in the proximity of gas wells to elementary schools in certain Barnett Shale neighborhoods: somewhat surprisingly, researchers found that the middle-class neighborhoods in Denton and Tarrant County - not poor neighborhoods - were more likely to have gas wells near their elementary schools.

Generally, the researchers found inner-city neighborhoods and their elementary schools to be the most "socially vulnerable" to drilling (considering measures such as income and language). However, they also found those neighborhoods were no more likely to have gas wells near their elementary schools than schools in middle-class neighborhoods, such as the outermost areas of Denton and Tarrant County cities. One possible explanation is that inner-city neighborhoods are already densely developed, leaving little room for new gas wells and pipelines.

Locally, school districts in Aubrey, Lake Dallas, Pilot Point and Sanger have not signed leases. Four other districts - Denton, Argyle, Krum and Ponder - have, according to documents obtained in open records requests. According to Denton documents, leases and mineral pooling agreements for gas wells drilled near Denton schools include Guyer High School, which has a well site within 500 feet, and McNair Elementary School, which is about 1,000 feet from a gas well. The state's required setback is 200 feet.[27]

Race and Class

A January 2016 article in American Journal of Public Health found that poor, heavily Hispanic neighborhoods disproportionately bear the brunt hydraulic fracturing wastewater burden in Texas' booming Eagle Ford Shale. Wastewater disposal wells in southern Texas are disproportionately permitted in areas with higher proportions of people of color and residents living in poverty. Of the more than 217,000 racial minorities living less than three miles from the Texas disposal well sites, 83% were Hispanic.[28]

The study found [[hydraulic fracturing] slightly higher in white communities but wastewater wells higher in communities of color.

Dr. Jill Johnston, the lead author of the study told Environmental Health News, “A lot of people there [Eagle Ford area] are reliant on groundwater, putting this all underground is jeopardizing water sources.” [29]

Air pollution

Eagle Ford

According to an investigation into air quality and Eagle Ford oil/gas wells by the Center for Public Integrity:[30]

  • there has been a 100-percent statewide increase in unplanned toxic air releases associated with oil and gas production in the region since 2009;
  • only five permanent air monitors are installed in the 20,000-square-mile Eagle Ford region;
  • drillers of thousands of wells are allowed to self-audit their emissions without reporting them to the state, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) does not know some of the facilities exist. An internal agency document acknowledges that the rule allowing this practice “[c]annot be proven to be protective”;
  • 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;
  • 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.

Dish, TX

By 2009, residents of DISH, Texas living near 11 natural gas compression stations became concerned about the odor, noise and health problems they were experiencing, including headaches and blackouts, as well as neurological defects and blindness in their horses. Their mayor reported the accounts to Texas regulators and eventually hired a private environmental consultant, who in 2009 found that air samples contained high levels of neurotoxins and carcinogens.[31]

Denton, TX

In October 2014, infrared videos that were taken over a three month period showed that oil and gas air pollution is "ongoing, chronic, and unaddressed in Denton, Texas despite assurances of safety by industry."[32]

Decatur, TX

A Texas jury on April 2014 awarded $2.9 million to Bob and Lisa Parr who alleged their family suffered health problems, as well as sick pets and livestock, on their ranch because of wells drilled and fracked in the Barnett Shale by Aruba Petroleum Inc. on neighboring property, finding Aruba intentionally created a private nuisance. [33]


The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has reported that storage tanks used in the exploration and production of natural gas and oil are the largest source of VOCs in the Barnett Shale.[34]


Ground-level ozone (smog) is formed when nitrous oxides (NOx) react with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of heat and sunlight.

According to a 2009 Environmental Defense Fund report, the natural gas and oil industry in the Barnett Shale area produced more smog-forming emissions during the summer of 2009 than were produced by all motor vehicles in the Dallas Fort Worth metropolitan area.[35]

Using computer models, the Houston Advanced Research Center estimated that emissions from natural gas compressor stations and flares may be contributing significant amounts of ground-level ozone and formaldehyde in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.[36]

San Antonio, Texas has violated federal ozone standards dozens of times since 2008, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could designate the city a nonattainment area for ozone. Local officials are waiting for the results of a state-funded study to pinpoint the source of the pollution. Preliminary numbers from the study indicate that much of the problem lies in the Eagle Ford.[37]


In July 2012, two federal agencies released research highlighting dangerous levels of exposure to silica sand at oil and gas well sites in five states: Colorado, Texas, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania. Silica is a key component used in fracking. High exposure to silica can lead to silicosis, a potentially fatal lung disease linked to cancer. Nearly 80 percent of all air samples taken by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health showed exposure rates above federal recommendations. Nearly a third of all samples surpassed the recommended limits by 10 times or more. The results triggered a worker safety hazard alert by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.[38]


In drinking water, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the maximum contamination level at five parts per billion. The EPA has also set the level of benzene permissible in outdoor air levels at five parts per billion. The Environmental Integrity Project puts this EPA figure in perspective. A quarter teaspoon of benzene will make an average sized swimming pool exceed the EPA benzene limit.[39]

The non-profit group Shaletest.org monitored gas drilling sites in Texas's Barnett Shale in 2012 and found elevated levels of several chemicals, including toulene and the carcinogen benzene.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found airborne benzene near Barnett Shale wells at levels of up to 500 to 1,000 parts per billion — more than five times higher than allowable limits. The commission's results came shortly after tests conducted by Deborah Rogers, who runs an organic goat farm in west Fort Worth and by the town of DISH in Denton County. Those privately funded tests showed, along with benzene and other chemicals, high levels of carbon disulfide, which can lead to neurological problems. Honeycutt said the commission began finding plumes of volatile organic compounds at Barnett oil and gas sites as far back as 2007.[40]

In September 2014 BlackBrush O&G, reported injecting a mix of crude oil, butane, and other fluids containing up to 48,000 gallons of benzene into a well in Dimmit County, Texas. Between May 2013 and February 2014 Discovery Operating Services reported injecting solvents containing almost 1,000 gallons of benzene into eleven wells in Midland and Upton Counties.[41]


The Texas Monthly reported Environmental Defense Fund estimates that approximately 25,000 natural gas wells in the Barnett Shale emit up to 60,000 kilograms of methane an hour. Aliso Canyon in Porter Ranch, California emitting at its peak back 58,000 kilograms an hour in November 2015.[42]

In July 2015 a two year study sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund reported that fracking in the Barnett Shale region of Texas was releasing at least 50 percent more methane from drilling operations than the EPA has estimated.[43]

After the Environmental Defense Fund completed the statistical analysis of their study December 2015, the organization upgraded that 50 percent figure to 90 percent.[44]


Water use

A 2013 study published in Environmental Science and Technology looked at past and projected water use for fracking in the Barnett, Eagle Ford, and Haynesville shale plays in Texas, and found that fracking in 2011 was using more than twice as much water in the state as it was three years earlier. In Dimmit County, home to the Eagle Ford shale development in South Texas, fracking accounted for nearly a quarter of overall water consumption in 2011 and is expected to grow to a third in a few years, according to the study.[45] According to various news reports, droughts in Texas is being exacerbated by fracking operations.[46]

From January 2011 through May 2013, fracking operators in the Eagle Ford Shale region of Texas used approximately 19 billion gallons of water for its 4,300-plus wells. That's was the highest water use of any fracking region in the country.[47]

Water contamination

From 2004-2014 it was reported that a "Texas spreadsheet contains more than 2,000 complaints, and 62 of those allege possible well-water contamination from oil and gas activity."[48]

A 2013 study of 100 private water wells in and near the Barnett Shale in Texas showed elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic and selenium closest to natural gas extraction sites.[49]

Range Resources investigation

In December 2010, the EPA determined that natural gas drilling by Range Resources near homes in Parker County, Texas caused or contributed to the contamination of at least two residential drinking water wells with "extremely high levels of methane," as well as benzene. The EPA ordered the company to step in immediately to stop the contamination, provide drinking water to the affected residents, and provide methane gas monitors to the homeowners. EPA also issued an imminent and substantial endangerment order under Section 1431 of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA said it has data showing the presence of natural gas at the two wells, and ordered Range to investigate other nearby properties to determine if their drinking water is at risk.[50]

In a hearing called shortly thereafter, the Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas drilling in Texas, exonerated Range. One member of the commission called EPA's action "a frontal assault on domestic natural gas production." EPA pressed ahead in federal court, but before the trial court ruled, an element of the case went to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans.[51]

In March 2012, the EPA withdrew its order requiring Range Resources to provide water for the two North Texas families. The agency joined with Range seeking dismissal of the case in the Court of Appeals, stating that its decision allowed the agency to shift the focus “away from litigation and toward a joint effort on the science and safety of energy extraction.”[52] In a letter sent as part of the dismissal agreement, Range committed to testing 20 wells in Parker County four times in the next year.[53]

In January 2013, the AP reported that it obtained confidential documents showing the EPA asked independent scientist Geoffrey Thyne to analyze samples taken from 32 water wells near Range's Parker County wells in 2010, and Thyne concluded from chemical testing that gas in the water could have originated from Range's wells. After the tests, in December 2010, the EPA issued its emergency order, but rescinded the order in March 2011. The AP concludes that its confidential report "and interviews with company representatives show that the EPA had scientific evidence against the driller, Range Resources, but changed course after the company threatened not to cooperate with [the pending fracking] national study."[54]

The EPA also dropped its investigations into water contamination from shale gas drilling in Dimock, PA, and Pavillion, WY.[55]

In 2014 it was reported that while Range’s consultants concluded methane levels in Parker County were safe (4.2 milligrams per liter of methane in mid-2012, and 20 milligrams in November 2012), tests by Duke University one month later in December 2012 found potentially explosive levels (54.7 milligrams). Homeowners want the EPA to re-open the case, saying the agency relied on tests conducted by the company itself without adequate oversight.[56]

In 2016 Stanford University scientist, Rob Jackson, linked the groundwater contamination to poorly constructed wells. Jackson used the Parker County case as an example. He told Phys.org, "At that site, the company cemented very near the surface and deep underground, but they put no cement for 4,000 feet in between," he explained. "The gap allowed gases to move up and down freely like a chimney and contaminate the drinking-water supply."[57]

Canadian Company Tests Waterless Fracking in Texas

In March 2013 the Texas Tribune reported that a new technology, dubbed "waterless fracking," could perhaps address the problem of water use in fracking operations. It was reported that "A Canadian company called GasFrac is using a combination of gelled propane and butane to conduct fracking, without the use of water. The technology is new and may cost more than conventional hydraulic fracking. But waterless fracking will have its attractions if the water shortage in Texas persists. While the process requires a lot of propane and is said to be less effective than water in deep formations, propane is readily available in south Texas and also has the advantage that it is less likely to damage shale formations than water. In addition to propane, some companies are experimenting with carbon dioxide and nitrogen."[58]


A 2012 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzed 67 earthquakes recorded between November 2009 and September 2011 in a 43.5-mile (70 kilometers) grid covering northern Texas' Barnett Shale formation. The study found that all 24 of the earthquakes with the most reliably located epicenters originated within 2 miles (3.2 km) of one or more injection wells for wastewater disposal. The study was headed by associate director and senior research scientist Cliff Frohlich at the University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics.

Before a series of small quakes on Halloween 2008, the Dallas area had never recorded a magnitude-3 earthquake, according to Frohlich. USGS data shows that, since then, there has been at least one quake at or above a magnitude 3 every year except 2010. Frohlich said the intensification in seismic activity in the Dallas area came the year after ground just south of (and thousands of feet below) the Dallas airport began to be inundated with wastewater from hydraulic fracturing. The injection well has been out of use since September 2011, but though water is no longer being added, lingering pressure differences from wastewater injection could still be contributing to the lubrication of long-stuck faults, according to Frohlich.

Three unusual earthquakes shook a suburb west of Dallas on September 29 and 30, 2012. The first quake was a magnitude 3.4, hitting a few miles southeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport. It was followed 4 minutes later by a 3.1-magnitude aftershock that originated nearby. A third, magnitude-2.1 quake struck 24 hours later, with an epicenter a couple miles east of the first. No injuries were reported. Frohlich believes they are connected to wastewater disposal.[59]


In April 2014, a Wise County couple who sued gas driller Aruba Petroleum won a $2.9 million award from a Dallas jury. The couple claimed that natural gas operations near their 40-acre ranch made them sick, creating a public nuisance and forcing them to move. They presented medical evidence that the family's health issues began about the time Aruba drilled the wells in 2008. It is believed to be one of the few cases filed by landowners claiming harm from Barnett Shale gas operations to have gone to trial - most are dismissed or settled.[60]

LNG terminals

Corpus Christi LNG

Corpus Christi LNG was originally planned as an LNG Import Terminal and 23 miles of 48-inch pipeline, approved by FERC in April 2005.[61]

On December 16, 2011, Cheniere Energy, Inc. announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Corpus Christi Liquefaction, LLC, was developing an LNG export terminal at the site, which was previously permitted for a regasification terminal. The LNG export terminal site is located on the La Quinta Channel in San Patricio County, Texas, and it is anticipated that the terminal would be primarily supplied by reserves from the Eagle Ford Shale, located approximately sixty miles northwest of Corpus Christi, Texas. The proposed liquefaction project (Corpus Christi Project) is being designed for up to 13.5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa). Cheniere has initiated FERC's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) pre-filing review. The company plans for the first "trains," or facilities where gas will be liquefied, to be in operation in 2018.[62]

On March 25, 2013, UK energy company Centrica agreed to pay £10bn (US $15bn) over 20 years for 89bn cubic feet of gas annually from Cheniere. The first deliveries, by tanker, are expected in 2018.[63]

Freeport LNG

Freeport LNG Development, L.P. designed, built and operates the Freeport LNG receiving and regasification terminal in Freeport, Texas. ConocoPhillips has bought two-thirds of the capacity of Freeport LNG and Dow Chemical the remaining third. Construction began in 2005 and was originally planned for LNG import, but is shifting to exports.[64]

Freeport LNG filed two DOE applications, each for 511 Bcf/year, in December 2010 and 2011, and received approval from DOE to export LNG to Free Trade Agreement countries in February 2011 and 2012. In December 2010, Freeport LNG also submitted a pre-filing request with FERC to begin the environmental review of the liquefaction project.[64]

Freeport LNG intends to file its formal application pursuant to Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act (NGA) by August 2012 and will request that FERC authorize by 2013. Freeport LNG anticipates a construction schedule of approximately three to four years, beginning in early 2017.[64]

On May 17, 2013, the DOE gave the green light to Freeport LNG Expansion and FLNG Liquefaction’s proposal to send 1.4 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas overseas for 25 years, allowing export to nations that do not have a free-trade agreement with the U.S. The decision came less than 24 hours after the Senate confirmed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, author of a 2011 MIT report on natural gas that advocated its export.[65]

Golden Pass LNG

In October 2012, Qatar’s Golden Pass Products LLC received permission to export liquefied natural gas from the U.S. Golden Pass is 70% owned by state-run Qatar Petroleum International and 30% by ExxonMobil. The permit allows the company to export gas to nations that have free-trade agreements with the U.S. The partners will make a final decision about the proposed $10-billion export project after receiving regulatory approvals. The investment would pay for liquefaction plants with 15.6 million metric tons of annual capacity to be added to the existing Golden Pass LNG import terminal in Texas. Qatar is the world’s largest producer of LNG, and the project may become the Persian Gulf state’s first venture for selling LNG produced in another country.[66]

Legislative issues and regulations

Fracking and schools

In 2011, State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, filed a bill to prevent drilling within 1,200 feet of public schools statewide. The measure was one of many proposals that died after facing industry opposition. Burnam said he would continue pushing the measure but said publicly that he believes industry-friendly lawmakers will continue thwarting all but "watered-down" laws.[67]

Disclosure rules

Texas in 2011 was among the first states to pass a fracking disclosure law.[68]

Due to rules that went into effect on February 1, 2012, Texas state law requires the names of products, chemicals, and their CAS numbers (the unique codes that the Chemical Abstracts Service assigns to individual chemical compounds) within 30 days after well completion, although deadlines may vary slightly. Only hazardous chemicals are matched with the products they go into and their concentration amounts. Companies are not required to disclose trade secret information unless the attorney general or court determines the information is not entitled to trade secret protection. A landowner or state agency can challenge trade secret classification. The information cannot be withheld from health care professionals in an emergency.[69]

In December 2011, ALEC adopted model legislation based on the Texas law addressing the public disclosure of chemicals in fracking fluids. The disclosure bill provides large loopholes for companies wanting to protect fracking chemical “trade secrets.” The ALEC model legislation has since provided the basis for similar bills submitted in five states: Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, New York, and Ohio. According to the New York Times, the legislation was sponsored by ExxonMobil.[70]

A provision in the state law requires the disclosure of chemicals listed as trade secrets to emergency personnel, but not to toxicologists or academics who attempt to study the long term effects of the chemicals.[71]

The Houston Chronicle reported that operators in Texas have invoked the exemption to shield, and partially shield, the chemical identities of more than 170,000 ingredients from when the law took effect in February 2012 through April.[72]

Texas Railroad Commission

The Texas Railroad Commission's regulations related to oil and gas well construction and water protection, while not specifically directed at hydraulic fracturing, is meant to protect surface and ground water.[73]

Texas agency seeks to decrease industrial flaring

In May 2012 the Texas Railroad Commission announced they wanted to ensure that current rules regarding flaring were being followed. The agency also stated that regulations ought to ensure flaring of fracking gas was a last resort. Industries use “flaring” to burn off excess gases which helps prevent a buildup that could cause an explosion, but also pollutes the air. Newer technologies allow industry to reduce or eliminate the use of flaring.[74]

Buffer Zone in Dallas

In August 2013 the Dallas City Plan Commission reaffirmed its intentions to "require a 1500 foot buffer zone, or setback, between gas wells and so-called protected uses, like homes." The Plan Commission must hold two more public hearings before finalizing the new gas drilling ordinance and sending it to the City Council for a vote.[75]

Fracking bans

Denton, Texas

In November 2014, voters in Denton, Texas voted to ban fracking. Denton, known for being the birthplace of fracking, became the first city in Texas to ban the practice. The measure was spearheaded by a community group called 'Frack Free Denton'. Reports suggested if the ban passed there would eventually be a legal fight "over a city’s power to regulate for health and safety and the rights of mineral owners to develop their resources."[76] In October 2014, the City of Denton was sued by a group of "royalty interest owners claiming that the city's current temporary ban violates their property rights."[77][78]

The day after Denton voters banned fracking, Texas Oil and Gas Association and the state’s General Land Office filed lawsuits in an attempt to stop the city’s effort to prohibit fracking in the city. The lawsuit claimed that the "ordinance exceeds the limited power of home-rule cities and intrudes on the authority of several state agencies, particularly the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry." The lawsuit also asked for an expedited hearing.[79]

Only one week after the ban in Denton passed, state officials notified the city that they would continue to issue drilling permits within Denton city limits, even though the ban is to go into effect on December 2, 2014.[80]

Denton city lawyers filed a legal brief on December 1, 2014, one day before the ban was to go into effect, which in part read:

"Those activities have caused conditions that are subversive of public order and constitute an obstruction of public rights of the community as a whole ... Such conditions include, but are not limited to, noise, increased heavy truck traffic, liquid spills, vibrations and other offensive results."[81]

On December 2, 2014 the fracking ban in Denton went into effect. Denton Mayor Chris Watts stated that he wasn't sure what immediate impact the ban would pose to drillers. Watts said the ban did not mean operators must “shut down the wells and turn off the lights” on existing wells.[82]

On December 4, 2014 environmental groups filed an intervention petition. The petition requested that the groups could enter the two lawsuits filed against the city by the pro-fracking Texas Oil and Gas Association and the Texas General Land Commission.[83]

According to research from the Perryman Group, Denton’s fracking ban could cost the city $250 million in economic activity and 2,000 jobs.[84]

Banning fracking bans

In April 2015 Texas Republican lawmakers moved to ban Texas cities from imposing prohibitions on fracking as well as other potentially harmful oil and gas developments within state boundaries. The Republican-dominated state Senate approved the bill in early May and sent it to Gov. Greg Abbot's desk, which the Republican governor signed into law.[85][86]


In September 2013 the environmental organization Earthworks released a study which reported on fracking pollution in the state of Texas.

Earthworks' investigation looked at the oil and gas operations and government oversight in Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale. Earthworks reported the following:

"Residents requested state regulators provide relief from oil and gas air pollution; Regulators discovered pollution so dangerous they evacuated themselves; Regulators took no subsequent action to warn or otherwise protect the residents at risk; Regulators took no subsequent action to penalize the responsible company; Residents continue to live with exposure to dangerous oil and gas air pollution. Oil and gas operations in shale formations release chemicals to air, water, and soil that are hazardous to human health.

Government shares the blame for these releases because rules governing oil and gas development don’t protect the public. Adding insult to injury, state regulators don’t reliably enforce these rules. By failing to deter reckless operator behavior, regulators practically condone it, thereby increasing health risks for residents living near oil and gas development."[87]

Oil spills

On October 29, 2013, the Railroad Commission of Texas reported that 17,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from an eight-inch pipeline owned by Koch Pipeline Company.[88]

2012 oil and gas spills

In 2012 Texas regulators sought enforcement for 2 percent of the 55,000 oil and gas spill violations identified by drilling inspectors that year, according to state records.[89]

2010-2012 pollution violations

In 2013 E&E reported that Texas air regulators fined 11 oil and pipeline companies for pollution violations in the Eagle Ford Shale field in the past three years. An additional 188 operators were allowed to fix their violations without paying a fine, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said.[90]

Citizen activism

Lewisville Lake

Hydraulic fracturing could come to Lewisville Lake in Denton County this spring 2016. An agency within the US Department of Interior, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), will determine whether to auction off drilling rights for 259 acres in Hickory Creek for the next 10 years. The auction is set for April 20, 2016 at the BLM offices in Santa Fe, New Mexico.[91]

Lewisville Lake provides drinking water for millions. It has a high risk dam. The Army Corps of Engineers has it listed as the nation’s eight most hazardous[92]

City councils of several cities including Lewisville and Colony are expected to submit formal letters of protest against the Lewisville Lake drilling project. [93] Denton, Flower Mound and Hickory Creek city councils are scheduled to discuss the project and potentially join the protest.[94]

Jody Puckett, director of Dallas Water Utilities, sent a formal letter of protest to the BLM. Puckett claims the project does not account for the safety of the dam.[95]

Groups Urge Investigation of EPA Actions in Texas Water Contamination Case

On February 11, 2013 more than 80 organizations from 12 states and a New York State Senator called on the inspector general of the EPA to investigate a decision to drop legal action against a drilling company despite evidence that it had polluted residents’ well water near Fort Worth, Texas.

In the joint press release, the groups stated, "The organizations sent a letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., asking him to broaden an ongoing investigation of a case that made national news last year when the EPA dropped an enforcement action against Range Resources Ltd. after earlier invoking rare emergency authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act. New York State Senator Tony Avella is sending a similar letter later today. Elkins began investigating the case after six U.S. senators asked him last June to determine whether EPA had followed proper procedures."[96]

Citizen groups

Industry groups



The Cerny Family

The Environmental Integrity Project

Diesel in Fracking

From 2010 to July 2014 drillers in the state of Texas reported using 21.96 gallons of diesel injected into 25 wells. The Environmental Integrity Project extensively researched diesel in fracking. The environmental research organization argues that diesel use in fracking is widely under reported.

The Environmental Integrity Project 2014 study "Fracking Beyond The Law, Despite Industry Denials Investigation Reveals Continued Use of Diesel Fuels in Hydraulic Fracturing," found that hydraulic fracturing with diesel fuel can pose a risk to drinking water and human health because diesel contains benzene, toluene, xylene, and other chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other health problems. The Environmental Integrity Project identified numerous fracking fluids with high amounts of diesel, including additives, friction reducers, emulsifiers, solvents sold by Halliburton.[97]

Due to the Halliburton loophole, the Safe Drinking Act regulates benzene containing diesel-based fluids but no other petroleum products with much higher levels of benzene.[98]

Fracking Pollution

The 2012 report by the Environmental Integrity Project, "Nearly 93,000 Tons of Pollution Released From Upsets and 'Emission Events' at Natural Gas and Petrochemical Plants in Texas," found that flares, leaking pipelines, and tanks emitted 92,000 tons of toxic chemicals into the air during accidents, break-downs, and maintenance at Texas oil and gas facilities, refineries, and petrochemical plants from 2009 to 2011. The data was collected from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and shows that, in addition to the emissions from normal operations, more than 42,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and just over 50,000 tons of smog-forming volatile organic compounds were released from 2009 through 2011. Natural gas operations, including well heads, pipelines, compressors, boosters, and storage systems, accounted for more than 85 percent of total sulfur dioxide and nearly 80 percent of the VOCs released during these emission events. The report shows a "pattern of neglect" as the pollution from these events drags on for weeks or months.

Environment Texas report on external costs

The 2012 Environment Texas report, "The Costs of Fracking: The Price Tag of Dirty Drilling’s Environmental Damage," looked at the external costs of fracking - damage to natural resources, drinking water contamination, economic impacts like home values, health problems, and public infrastructure - and concluded that the overall costs associated with fracking would outweigh the economic benefits for states. The study calls for comprehensively restricting and regulating fracking to reduce its environmental, health, and community impacts, and ensuring up-front financial accountability by requiring oil and gas companies to post much higher bonds that "reflect the true costs of fracking."

Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods

A report by the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods in February 2011 called for buffers of 1 mile, or 5,280 feet, between gas wells and schools to protect students from air pollution. Industry supporters disputed the factual basis for that recommendation.[99]


The 2011 Earthworks report, "Natural Gas Flowback: the Dark Side of the Boom: How the Texas gas boom affects community health and safety," examined the data on the health effects of gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing on Texans throughout the Barnett Shale, including issues of water contamination, water depletion, and air pollution. The report recommended that:

  • The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality must enforce emission limits from oil and gas exploration and production equipment;
  • The Texas Railroad Commission should adopt rules that provide the public with full public disclosure of oil and gas drilling and fracking fluids, as well as implement rules requiring closed-loop drilling systems and water-based drilling fluids;
  • The Texas Water Development Board should exercise its authority to evaluate groundwater resources and the impact that hydraulic fracturing withdrawal is having on groundwater resources, and implement rules requiring recycling of flowback water; and
  • Authority to regulate air emissions from drilling and oversee permitting should be overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through a federal advisory commission that includes citizen representation. The agency should also identify the sources of methane contaminants in groundwater.

The 2013 Earthworks report, "Reckless Endangerment While Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Government fails, public health suffers and industry profits from the shale oil boom," found that:

  1. Residents of Karnes County requested state regulators provide relief from oil and gas air pollution;
  2. Regulators discovered pollution (Volatile Organic Compounds at 1,100 ppm) and evacuated themselves; and
  3. Regulators took no subsequent action to protect the residents, nor penalize the responsible company. Consequently, residents continue to live with exposure to the pollution.[100]

University of Texas study

In February 2012 a University of Texas study, "Separating Fact from Fiction In Shale Gas Development," found no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing chemicals in the subsurface by fracturing operations, and observed no leakage from hydraulic fracturing at depth. Critics say that proponents of hydraulic fracturing have incorrectly reported that the study found no environmental contamination,[101][102] when the study found that all steps in the process except the actual injection of the fluid (which proponents designated "hydraulic fracturing") have resulted in environmental contamination.[103] It was later reported that the lead researcher Charles Groat was a member of the board of gas producer PXP: company filings indicated that in 2011, he received more than $400,000 in compensation from the gas company, which has fracking operations in Texas.[104] On August 13, 2012, the University of Texas at Austin appointed Norman Augustine to chair a three-member panel charged by the university with independently reviewing the study led by Groat. Yet Augustine also has gas industry ties, serving on the board of Houston-based ConocoPhillips (or its predecessor company) from 1989 to 2008.[105]



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