State Rep. Jim Keffer of Eastland, chair of the Texas House Committee on Energy Resources, last week introduced a bill to require limited disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells. Since Texas currently has no disclosure requirements, we d like to be able to say HB 3328 is a step forward but we can t.
Why? Because, as Jim Hightower says, The water won t clear up until we get the hogs out of the creek.
The hogs in this instance are the oil and gas industry, which helped write the bill. Unsurprisingly, it does little to protect Texans right to know about chemicals that may contaminate their drinking water, but bends over backwards to protect the industry s interest in keeping its fracking formulas secret. The bill appears to be written largely from the perspective of industry and without much consideration for the landowners whose problems it is ostensibly trying to solve.
Range Resources lives in an alternate universe where saying something makes it true no matter the facts. Range wrote a letter where they claim the EPA met with them and agreed that they were not responsible for the garden hose turned flamethrower in Parker County. Okay, I ll play: if saying something makes it true, then I m a ballerina.
The EPA was clear when they gave Texans an early Christmas present by issuing an emergency order to protect families in southern Parker County, Texas, west of Fort Worth in the Barnett Shale gas field. The EPA would not take this action lightly, especially in Texas. Their investigation was thorough and included isotopic fingerprinting and a detailed timeline where the finger points directly at Range Resources.
After four months of investigating, the Texas Railroad Commission couldn t say how the gas got in the well water. It took the EPA two months of investigating to determine Range was responsible. But Gene Powell an industry apologist who writes the Powell Barnett Newsletter that even industry calls pro-industry did a quickie investigation and figured it all out in just five days!
Three weeks before Christmas, the U.S. EPA issued an emergency order to protect families in southern Parker County, Texas, west of Fort Worth in the Barnett Shale gas field. Two residents living near gas wells had flammable, fizzy and bubbling water (video) and EPA testing determined that nearby Range Resources wells had either caused or contributed to the contamination. The order said: EPA testing has confirmed that extremely high levels of methane in their water pose an imminent and substantial risk of explosion or fire.
For four months prior, the Texas Railroad Commission knew of the situation but hemmed and hawed, testing and retesting but failing to take any action. Yet when EPA stepped in, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones called the action premature. Commissioner Michael Williams said EPA s action was nothing more than grandstanding in an effort to interject the federal government into Texas business. Only in Texas where citizens are held prisoners to the cry of states rights by our Kabuki governor who regularly demonizes the EPA and who never met a polluter he didn t like could an action to protect citizens be called political grandstanding by a professional political grandstander.
The EPA s action is generating much scurrying about by industry and industry apologists looking for anything to blame -- anything, that is, but drilling and fracking. Their quest for a scapegoat is producing some useful information.