Texas became the latest state to launch an environmental watchdog for energy development as a nonprofit group set its sights on the Barnett Shale drilling in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The Texas campaign of the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, after similar campaigns in New Mexico and Colorado, is part of a growing concern about the environmental impact of techniques like hydraulic fracturing that are creating an energy boom as the U.S. exploits vast deposits of shale oil and gas.
The Wall Street Journal on Friday profiled the Bakken Shale development in North Dakota, which has catapulted that state into fourth place among oil producers, after Texas, Alaska and California – ahead of traditional leaders like Oklahoma and Louisiana.
But environmental concerns about shale development were the focus of a congressional querie earlier this month as Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) sent letters to several companies conducting hydraulic fracturing, which pumps liquid under high pressure to crack shale formations and free natural gas deposits.
“As we use this technology in more parts of the country on a much larger scale, we must ensure that we are not creating new environmental and public health problems,” said Waxman, who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Waxman and Markey said an Environmental Protection Agency report had found a “possible link” between hydraulic fracturing and contamination of drinking water.
More than 1,000 wells have been drilled in and around Forth Worth to produce gas from the Barnett Shale, which lies underneath the city and underneath the Dallas-Forth Worth airport. Another 14,000 have been drilled in the surrounding area.
The OGAP campaign is not anti-drilling, organizers said, but seeks to ensure that the activities respect the rights of the residents and environment in the area. Adherents claim that the environmental impact of extracting shale gas can mean that natural gas is not always the “clean energy” billed by the industry.
Their proposals include things like greater setbacks between drill sites and homes, closed-loop drilling systems to eliminate open waste pits, and more monitoring for air and water pollution.
The group acknowledged that their experience in other states indicated it could take some time to get measures passed, with the process lasting from a short time frame to years.
By. Darrell Delamaide