Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Report From Texas: The Ill Effects of Gas Drilling on Public Health

Below is a report delivered by Sharon Wilson on behalf of the Texas Oil and Gas Project and the Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Operations.

Hello. My name is Sharon Wilson. This afternoon, I'm making a joint statement on behalf of the Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project and Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Operations. Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project has put forth Drill-Right Texas, the best oil and gas development practices for Texas.

Texas OGAP considers the new ozone standard one of several essential tools needed in a regional plan to clean our air. Tougher standards will prevent natural gas extraction from continuing to foul our air and harm our health. A 2009 study by SMU found that emissions from Barnett Shale natural gas extraction were as much as vehicular emissions in the entire Dallas-Fort Worth region. This study was based on text book examples but the reality could be a much worse picture. Researchers at Rice University followed the SMU study to see whether Barnett Shale gas production could be affecting our air quality. Using both condensate production data and ambient air data from Denton County, those researchers found a strong correlation between natural gas production and what was showing up in the air.

This really isn't news. In 2003, atmospheric researchers from the University of California were surprised to find extraordinarily high hydrocarbon levels in North Texas at concentrations higher than what they expected for the entire country. We know that fugitive emissions occur at every stage of production from flow lines and gathering lines, from vents and condensate tanks, dehydrators and compressors, metering stations and valves. A single compression facility can emit six times the volatile organic compounds as a cement plant.

Natural gas is methane, and methane is the most powerful greenhouse gas—at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And methane is a surrogate gas that carries a host of bad guy carcinogens and neurotoxins with it.
From cradle to grave, the extraction process is filthy and brings with it its own intense source of on-road and off-road diesel and NOx emissions. In Texas, the permit by rule process is abused allowing all these emissions to go unchecked. Eleven compression stations and 4 metering stations operate side-by-side in Dish, Texas, each considered a separate source. Residents suffer a host of ailments including irritated skin, eyes, nose throat and lungs, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, skin rashes, weakness and irregular heartbeats. A whopping 61% of those health effects were directly attributed to the emissions. And throughout the Shale, children suffer stunning asthma rates -- 25% of 8 and 9 year-olds have asthma -- compared to 7 percent of children statewide.

TCEQ knows our air is bad! When asked about the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's testing in the Barnett Shale, Shannon Ethridge, TCEQ toxicologist, said they had seen some of the highest benzene concentrations they have monitored in the state. She compared the DFW area emissions to those found in the highly industrialized Houston Ship Channel area. Michael Honeycutt, chief of TCEQ's toxicology division, told Channel 8 News that air samplings around some gas wells revealed high levels of cancerous toxins.
"That would be equivalent to opening a can of gasoline and holding it up under your nose."

He added that a year or more of exposure to benzene can lead to health problems including anemia, immune disorders and leukemia. We're way past that one year mark. The technology is there to reduce the emissions and industry can afford to implement it but they wont unless its mandated. We are depending on you to protect public health by mandating and enforcing vigorous new regional ozone standards.


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