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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Are Frac Ponds a Public Health Threat?

Chesapeake Energy Frac Pond located at the Fulson Drill Site 
Southeast Arlington, TX
Photograph taken by Fish Creek Monitor on 7-26-2016

Vector Disease Control International conducted round two of targeted ground spraying throughout Fish Creek neighborhood this week.  They applied the first round of a synthetic permethrin insecticidal product manufactured by Bayer the week of July 5th, but on July 22nd another mosquito tested positive for West Nile virus.

Looks like they missed the target.

A single bite from one of these tiny winged insects can produce devastating disease.  Because we noticed such a proliferation of mosquitoes since the installation of the frac pond in our community ~ and since mosquitoes have the ability to travel anywhere from 300 feet to 100 miles depending on the breed ~ we asked the City if they require gas operators to implement any sort of mosquito control program for their frac ponds.

We learned that the City of Arlington does require gas operators to treat their frac ponds with mosquito dunks, but verification of compliance is questionable at best.  There is really no way to confirm whether or not the mosquito pellets [sic] that Chesapeake applies to their pond are working to keep the mosquito population at bay. 

According to a Gas Well Specialist with the City of Arlington, this is how compliance works:  
"We (the City) go by their (Chesapeake's) word. They've been pretty honest about the things they do."
 So, how do we know if the pellets are actually working to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in these ponds?  We don't.  The City does not place mosquito traps on gas operators' private property.

Since it is possible that frac ponds might be contributing to mosquito-borne illness, why not require operators to fill them in with dirt?  Chesapeake hasn't drilled any new wells at the Fulson Site since 2012, so there is no need for a pond at this time.  This would be a legitimate request by citizens to ask of their council representatives. Why take the chance of even one person contracting the West Nile or Zika virus?  In the early days of mineral lease signing, landmen pitched the idea that frac ponds would be amenities to the community.  Now people know better.

 Ban the frac ponds.

Doing away with frac ponds in city limits could actually be a win-win for everyone.  It was done at Chesapeake's Rocking Horse Drill Site back in 2012.   Gas operators would still be able to access water for fracking through the installation of above-ground frac tanks/pools which can be easily taken down after completion of a gas well.  XTO, in fact, uses them on a regular basis. Ridding the city of these stagnant man-made reservoirs which waste acreage would not only free up land for future development, but would eliminate a potential breeding habitat for mosquitoes.  

In 2015 fossil fuel advocates influenced the Texas Legislature to pass HB40.  This bill essentially strips away local control from municipalities to regulate fracking with some exceptions such as truck traffic, noise, and setbacks to some degree as long as these restrictions are "commercially reasonable" for the operator.  However, this bill does not specifically address frac ponds.  Since operators could still gain access to an alternative water source, it would seem reasonable that Arlington, a home rule city, could be a role model for other nearby communities by shoring up its ordinance to address this potential public health threat of mosquito-borne illness.  

Our State's overreach of HB40 may have banned fracking bans, but it doesn't specifically prohibit the banning of  frac ponds. Because of the number of cases of  mosquito-borne illnesses in North Texas, this may be a subject worth thinking about.  

In case you missed Chesapeake's Big Boy, click here to meet him.
 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Fort Worth Earthwake

For some reason this particular earthquake notification from USGS did not arrive in our inbox.  Weird.  It did appear across our Twitter feed from DFW Scanner and other news sources.  It was a big one, and many in Fort Worth felt it.

Here's the USGS link:  M3.0 - 2km NNE of Haslet

Lots of fracking near Haslet!

Railroad Commission of Texas GIS map of oil and gas wells as of 11/17/2015

(Reference key is on the left.  Each black line represents a horizontal well bore.  Red Circles without black lines indicate vertical wells.) 

Shortly after tweeting this map, we wanted to research some of these wells, but they disappeared from the website.  Perhaps it was a glitch.  It is working now.  

Time will tell if this earthquake was an isolated incident, or whether a known or unknown fault has been awakened.  We are not sure how it can be put back to sleep once it wakes up.  An ungodly amount of fluid has been injected AND extracted beneath this region of North Texas.  

Icymi Read this Wall Street Journal article written by Russell Gold circa 2005: 


Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Woo-Hoo Moment ***Update***

I spent the morning working alongside the Fish Creek Neighbors on the Linear Trail picking up a TON of litter that the heavy rains washed onto the wooded areas.  It was dirty, back-breaking work, so afterwards I took a hot bath, drank a glass of wine and decided to watch Tuesday night's City Council meeting that I missed.  Then the urge came on to write a blog post. 

The hot topic of discussion at this meeting was an item from Executive Session ~ an oil and gas lease with Vantage Energy.  A Chesapeake oil and gas lease was also on the agenda under Executive Session, but the focus for this story is the Vantage lease.  

Vantage is the operator that experienced a well blowout in April causing mandatory evacuations of many nearby residents.  This mishap spilled 42,000 gallons of produced water down residential streets and into our city storm drains.  This is also the same operator that delayed reporting this accident to our Fire Department for approximately two hours.  They don't sound like a very prudent operator.  Following an investigation, the City made a determination to allow them to Frack On on that LABC drill site.  It was a disappointment that they did not order Vantage to lock the gates and plug the wells after that fiasco.  Now they are building out that site, but that is a story for another day.  One of those West Arlington neighbors should start a blog. 
   
Although the surface location for this Vantage Energy lease is in Fort Worth, well bores would be directionally drilled and fractured under a portion of Lake Arlington, the City's drinking water source for hundreds of thousands of people.  

The speeches by Arlington and Dallas residents addressed a myriad of concerns ranging from the risk of contamination to our drinking water supply to the potential for an earthen dam failure which could be catastrophic.  Earthquakes, air pollution and climate change were also mentioned as serious issues associated with this type of heavy industrial activity.  

Fracking.  What's not to love? 

Robert Shepard (At-Large) was absent, and Jimmy Bennett (At-Large) made the motion to approve these oil and gas leases. Shame on you, Mr. Bennett!  Since there was no second, Robert Rivera then made a motion to deny, seconded by Sheri Capehart. The outcome of the vote was 7-1.   

 ***UPDATE***  

We received new information from the City Secretary's office today that there was dialogue immediately following this vote which was not clearly audible to online viewers.  While both items 1 and 2 were denied, Charlie Parker, District 1 Councilman, wanted to make sure that it goes on public record that he voted "No" on item 2  (ie, saying yes to a Chesapeake oil and gas lease on City property by Little Road and Little School Road) making the vote on item two 6-2.  So, there you have it ~ two Arlington Councilmen whose names deserve recognition in the City Hall of Shame.   


It was curious to witness what appeared to be a pivot ~ or maybe it was an eddy turn by seven out of eight council members present at the meeting.  Is there a skilled canoe man out there who can confirm this move?  We suspect it might have been a strategical maneuver to turn the negative PR around.   But most definitely, it was a "Woo-Hoo Moment" for mostly everyone in the chamber that night.   

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Arlington, TX: The Undeveloped Land


Undeveloped Land next to Chesapeake's Fulson Drill Site, So. Hwy. 360, Arlington, TX

Fracking damages the land.  Not only does it damage the land inside the perimeter of these beige, cosmetic masonry walls of pad sites, but it also ruins potential land use for the surrounding area.  The land depicted in this picture has remained barren since the City zoned the Fulson Drill Site in 2009.  Let's face it, no one wants to develop property that is adjacent to a heavy industrial mining site where gas gathering pipelines criss-cross its span ~ unless, perhaps, they give away the land at a deeply discounted price.  

Now, zoning an industrial use next to a fracking site would not be so objectionable if there were not already 60 or so sites in Arlington which are zoned for residential neighborhoods.  So, just what DO you do when you learn that the pie-in-the-sky master plan that the oil and gas industry pitched to our City six years ago was just a pipe dream, and we now have to deal with the nightmare of the fracking aftermath ~ Undeveloped Land all across the "American Dream City?" 

Well, some developers seem to think it is just fine to build homes next to existing drill sites.  There are no laws prohibiting them from doing so, but just because you can doesn't mean you should.  It's wrong.  This complex issue is about private property rights, but it is also about ethics.  Doing the right thing.  The Makens Company wants the City to change the zoning from commercial to residential for their property on South Highway 360 next to Chesapeake's Fulson Drill Site.  

It would be a terrible tragedy if an unsuspecting young couple purchased their dream home, gave birth to a child, and adopted a pet only to awaken one morning to a looming drilling rig outside their child's bedroom window.  This can and has happened because Texas has no disclosure laws requiring sellers to tell potential buyers that these homes are next to a drill site and that heavy industrial mining activity could occur at any time into perpetuity.  This very situation is what led Denton residents to work toward a fracking ban which our Oiligarchy State overturned when they passed HB40.

Arlington's gas drilling ordinance does not address reciprocal setbacks for new development going in next to existing drill sites.  Mansfield's ordinance doesn't either, and look at the fiasco that is happening there:

New home construction next to gas drilling site on Debbie Lane in Mansfield, TX

Arlington's current gas-drilling ordinance mandates a 600-foot setback from a protected use with a variance to 300 feet, but this measurement is taken from the wellhead, not the pad wall.  We have gone to our City on numerous occasions asking for an ordinance revision, but they keep kicking the can down the road.  It appears they enjoy basking in the shade of HB40. 

Now, the City of Arlington seems to be in a hurry to meet with the Fish Creek Neighbors ~ so much in a hurry that we are told by one resident that this meeting cannot wait another day.  We don't even know the time, but we know the date and the place of this meeting ~ Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church.  Since Monday is Labor Day, we will meet on Tuesday.  This will ensure low turnout, which is what we believe the City is counting on.  Here is the e-mail that arrived in my box on Friday:
(Note that gas drilling is NOT mentioned in the Fish Creek Neighborhood Plan.)

We certainly hope that Chesapeake plans to plug those three wells if the City approves a zoning change for The Makens Company, because gas drilling in such close proximity to a neighborhood is downright dangerous.  These two land uses are clearly incompatible.  These wells are experiencing declining production anyway.  The trickling royalty checks arrive with less frequency ~ and the amount barely covers a family's pizza and coke for Friday night dinner.  

Stay tuned, and we'll update this story as we learn more details...

In the meantime, here is an important back story:

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Inspectors With Guns


Our last blog post, 158 Inspectors, brought to light that our State has failed us in the area of Oil & Gas regulatory oversight.  

And now here's where things get really crazy.  It just might be hard to tell the difference between a gas well inspector and a border patrol agent if you are down in the Eagle Ford Shale.  The reason ~  it appears that David Porter, Railroad Commission Chairman, thinks that the Federal government is not doing a good job of protecting our border.  Sergio Chapa, journalist with the San Antonio Biz Journal, writes:
 
"Calling the federal government "ineffective" on preventing the smuggling of drugs and illegal immigrants along the border, Texas Railroad Commission Chairman David Porter implemented several policy changes to keep inspectors safe in pipeline areas in deep South Texas where armed smugglers may potentially come into contact with energy company employees, regulators and landowners."
Apparently, the need to clear land and build dirt roads to accommodate pipelines has created another type of conduit ~ an easy pathway to the United States for drug smugglers and illegal immigrants.  The list of negative impacts from oil & gas extraction keeps growing. 

The Railroad Commission needs a name change!  

It is puzzling to understand what they do as a regulatory body, and we have concerns about their commissioners and spokespeople. 

It would seem more plausible that the Railroad Commission is becoming increasingly fearful of angry citizens who have been screwed by Oil & Gas and let down by their own government's willingness to protect them than they are of illegal immigrants or drug cartels.  Using the border issue as an excuse to arm inspectors with deadly weapons helps with their agenda.  It certainly appears to further empower our government that keeps getting bigger and bigger.  Property owners who have been harmed by oil and gas or activists trying to make this State a better place to live may  perceive this new rule as intimidating.  It's all very scary.  And bizarre.   

There seems to be no end to the downside of fossil fuels. God help us.  And God help Texas.
 


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

158 Inspectors

Gaye McElwain,  spokesperson for the Railroad Commission of Texas, told us last Saturday that the State of Texas has a total of 158 oil and gas well inspectors.  Her statement is on the video from Saturday's Gas Drilling Educational Forum.  (Scroll ahead to approximately 2:25:35.)  She did not tell us how many oil and gas wells there are, so we looked it up ourselves.  


The Railroad Commission's records show that  the State ofTexas has 133,856 gas wells and 291,996 oil wells as of February 2015.  Click Here to view the full report of oil and gas wells in Texas. 



Now that we know how many wells there are in Texas, we can assess whether or not we have enough regulatory oversight to protect our communities.  

133,856 + 291,996 = 425,852 (total oil & gas wells.)  
Divide 425,852 by 158 (number of inspectors) = 2,695 wells per inspector  
Now if each inspector worked 240 days/year assuming a five/day work week including holidays and vacation, he/she would have to inspect 11.23 wells per day to ensure that each well gets inspected once per year. 

One part of the Mission Statement of the Railroad Commission of Texas, our regulatory body over Oil and Gas, states their concern over personal and community safety.  These figures reveal that their mission falls woefully short.  We clearly need more inspectors and oversight.  Our regulatory agencies need to do in the field what they say they do on paper.  Amen.