I and about 45 other people attended a Tuesday night meeting at Denton’s Central Fire Station Community room to discuss what the issues were and how to address our concerns about contaminated drinking water and toxic emissions in the air from natural gas well drilling in the county and around the state. The host of this event was the Environmental & Energy Committee (EEC) of the Denton County Democratic Party (DCDP) under the banner of “Gas Drilling in the Barnett Shale: Community Health and Legislation”. There were four selected experts to serve on a panel that would answer our questions. Neil Durrance, who is running to unseat Congressman Michael Burgess in the Texas 26th district, was on hand to moderate the event. This is one of several such meetings held in this area over the last few months.
According to the literature handed out by the EEC, Denton County has about 20 percent of the nearly 15,000 wells identified in the Barnett Shale. One of the panelists, Sharon Wilson, a consultant to the EPA, says “Texas has the most drilling and the least regulation” of all U.S. states. These meetings are designed to better inform the general public in the North Central Texas area. It has been the bane of many citizens who signed on early, thinking they would get rich quick only to find out not only that all wells are not productive but they can create health problems for them and their neighbors from toxic emissions.
Debra Rogers, another member of the panel, is from Ft Worth and besides spending time working at her goat dairy with her husband she is on the advisory board of the Federal Reserve in Dallas and is the co-founder of MORALS, Mineral Owners for Responsible Action and Land Safety. Debra was the first in this area to accumulate scientific data that demonstrated the hazards involved in gas well drilling. In her presentation she noted that the public has been misled about the long life gas reserves the Barnett Shale is supposed to be holding. Ms. Rogers’ findings show that there is barely eight years remaining with about 75 percent of accessible supplies already depleted.
I listened as Ms. Rogers told us that citizens have inherited the burden to insure that drilling these wells pose no threat to their safety and health. This reality is confronted by those who insist that drilling be done responsibly but often run up against the might of the industry and their loyal supporters in the legislature who claim that imposing “any further regulations” on them will be a job killer – an argument that is seriously weakened when discussed in conjunction with job creation from renewable clean energy sources.
Rounding out the 4-member panel was Cherelle Blazer, a clean air specialist for the Environmental Defense Fund and Jim Wall, an active member of Flower Mound Cares has fought to have the EPA mandate that chemical markers in fracking fluids be used in order to identify the source of pollutants appearing in drinking water. Ms. Blazer pointed out that “no one has looked at the ozone effects yet” of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions coming from gas wells. With extremely high levels of “wet gas” (condensate production) rural Denton County exhibits the highest level of such emissions.
DCDP will sponsor another forum on October 6th, 7pm at the Flower Mound Police Station Community Room. Jeff Weems, Democratic candidate for Railroad Commissioner will be a panelist at this event. Anyone interested about the upcoming meeting can contact the EEC of the Denton County Democratic Party at (940)566-1165.