Nat gas feud pits prosperous N. Texans against energy industry *updated*

By Ronnie Crocker
Houston Chronicle

ARGYLE — For Kelly Gant, the end of the rainbow beckoned from a former pasture subdivided into one-acre lots for high-dollar houses.

Gant, a structural engineer by training, and her husband had researched the towns and suburbs surrounding Dallas-Fort Worth before settling on this one 13 years earlier. The Denton County community offered the comfortable, laid-back lifestyle they wanted and quality public schools for the children they planned to start having.

A girl and a boy came right on schedule, and by 2008 the family was hunting around Argyle for a bigger house. They put money down on one with cathedral ceilings and an azure pool that transforms a lush backyard into a kind of sanctuary.

They moved in six months later, pinching themselves at the turn their charmed life had taken.

Soon, however, they found themselves coughing, wheezing and caught up in a growing conflict pitting some prosperous North Texas homeowners against energy companies drilling the Barnett Shale and its rich, millenniums-old vein of oil and natural gas encased in rock.

Aided by advances in an extraction technique called hydraulic fracturing, the area is experiencing a natural-gas boom. Disputes have followed, from urbanized areas in Fort Worth, to modest family horse farms in Wise County, to subdivisions with names like Badminton Estates that are moving Argyle beyond its rural roots.

The first thing the Gants noticed after moving into their dream home two years ago was soaplike bubbles floating off the drainpipes during a rain. Then came the asthma attacks and headaches; the debilitating vertigo that kept the lithe, athletic Gant in bed for days at a stretch; the weird rashes that resisted all but the most powerful steroid treatments. There were visits to the allergist, the dermatologist and specialists in pulmonology and internal medicine.

Kelly Gant, 44, holds a photograph of a natural-gas flare at a well near her home in Argyle. Gant took the photo from her daughter's bedroom window. (Photo: Ronnie Crocker/Houston Chronicle )


“The doctors all asked what I’d been exposed to,” says Gant, 44 and a stay-at-home mom. “I couldn’t tell them because they won’t tell us what we’re being exposed to. But I smell things.”

What she does know is there are more than 30 wells pumping natural gas within two miles of her home and a big processing unit and tank farm a quarter-mile away.

• • •

The industry insists that hydraulic fracturing, popularly referred to as “fracking,” has a safe record spanning 60 years. Well casings reinforced with steel and concrete have proved effective in keeping methane and fluids used in the fracking process from leaching into the water table, said Chris Tucker of the pro-industry group Energy in Depth, based in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, advances in flaring and capturing emissions have helped maintain air quality within regulated norms, said Deb Hastings, vice president for environmental affairs for the Texas Oil & Gas Association.

Both insist that the industry has a vested interest in making the nation’s 480,000 natural-gas wells run as cleanly and efficiently as possible. They have an interest, too, in looking out for property owners.

“We’re neighbors to a lot of these folks and we want them to be comfortable with this,” said Hastings.

She was one of four industry representatives appearing before the Texas Senate’s Natural Resources Committee on Thursday to testify in favor of a Republican-sponsored, House-passed bill that would require companies that bust up the shale through hydraulic fracturing to disclose what chemicals they use.

The additives help get water and sand into rock crevices under enough pressure to release pockets of gas.

The bill, still pending in the Senate committee which was reported out of committee Monday, would exempt chemicals considered trade secrets. But Hastings said the transparency would vindicate industry and be “a game-changer when it comes to debunking myths.”

• • •

Don’t mention myths to Sharon Wilson. As organizer for the Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project, she spends much of her time investigating and highlighting the concerns raised by Gant and others who live, work and send their kids to school near the ubiquitous drilling rigs, production wells and compression stations that have cropped up in recent years.

She recently led a reporter on a tour, heading southwest from Denton on U.S. 377, past numerous sites on both sides of the highway. She said she is skeptical that the Texas Legislature can draft meaningful rules or that regulators can enforce them.

“People will think they’re protected,” she said of the disclosure bill, “but they’re really not protected.”

A yard sign in front of Michael and Susan Knoll's house describes their feelings toward natural-gas drilling near residential areas. (Photo: Ronnie Crocker/Houston Chronicle )

Before stopping to see Gant, Wilson swung by Michael and Susan Knoll’s elegant home in a nearby subdivision that Michael Knoll discovered while training for a bicycle race.

He said he has sunk $1.2 million into the two-acre property over the last four and a half years, building a house, landscaping it and putting in an irrigation system for a small vineyard he and his wife had wanted to plant.

They gave up on the vineyard after their well-water started foaming and their dog developed a rare form of cancer they were told is typically caused in humans by radiation exposure.

The family became aware of the wells that surround them in 2009, the Knolls said, the year before the dog got sick. Sometimes they’d wake up at night coughing; visitors said they felt funny, too.

One day that summer, what Susan Knoll described as a flowing river of drilling mud spilled onto their property from a nearby rig and a work crew hustled in with sandbags to keep the muck at bay.

“That’s when we really started noticing things,” said Michael Knoll.

• • •

In the unincorporated community of Allison in adjacent Wise County, Tim and Christine Ruggiero shared similar stories, and videos, documenting the noise, the troubling results of private water testing, and visits from Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigators with infrared cameras.

At each stop on Wilson’s tour, talk inevitably turned to the odors, often redolent of petroleum products but running an unpleasant gamut from burned tires to rotten eggs, vomit, sweet antifreeze and wet cat litter. Christine Ruggiero said it’s often kind of “propaney” and leaves her with a headache.

Whether the chemicals producing these odors and possibly fouling the water wells are making people or their animals sick is another matter.

The industry says no. But for these families, it remains an open debate.

ronnie.crocker@chron.com

88 Comments

  1. SUX_2BU

    Suck it up…Nobody can stop us from our god given right to drill baby, drill. If you can’t deal with the consequences of living there, you should move.

    #1
  2. Les Thomas

    “soaplike bubbles floating off the drainpipes during a rain”, Geez, this happens in most guttering! “But I smell things”, sounds like another hypochondriac and a case of “not in my backyard”

    #2
  3. Roger Snyder

    I worked on wells in the Luling area – and the H2S in the air is terrible. The place literally stinks.

    #3
  4. cannedspaghetti

    Well all these problems are just imagined up in Appalachia so they must just be imaginary here with the wealthy republicans.

    #4
  5. Trail Trash

    All these folks start experiencing these mysterious illnesses living close to rigs, but after all my time around rigs I never had any mysterious illness, nor no I remember any of the hands complaining of msyterious illnesses. However, if these people living close to rigs start developing a sudden urge to dip snuff and spit on everything, then I will definitely believe it is related to rig exposure.

    #5
  6. houtexanfan

    So here is the weekly fracing article, making accusations without evidence to back them up. You can almost guess the political affiliation of the people they interviewed. It is too bad that we can’t have productive conversations about things without preconceived notions from our “political parties” determing our stance before the conversation ever occurs. And that goes for all sides. Until then, no one is willing to compromise or have an open mind to others ideas, so a productive conversation or debate is hopeless.

    #6
  7. dr

    From what state did they move from to get to Texas?

    #7
  8. Mike

    Its amazing that Oil has no respect for anyone… if the process is getting people sick, profits are STILL more important than people’s lives.

    #8
  9. Paul

    So you don’t like “prosperous” citizens? How about oil and gas companies that are making record profits by poisoning the earth?

    #9
  10. RO

    Only in Texas ! This would never happen in California

    #10
  11. solidjack

    houtexanfan, I didn’t find any accusations from the article, only quotes and suspicions from some of the people interviewed.

    #11
  12. LnL

    We can thank Mr. Cheney for the frac poisoning. The people in Colo have been dealing with it for years.

    #12
  13. Philip

    I wonder if any of these prissy Dallas suburb folk have ever been to Forsan? Amazing how people all over West Texas have dealt with the sights and smells of the oilfield for generations now but when the oilfield arrives in Dallas watch out! Illness everywhere. Give me a break people.

    #13
  14. Lynda

    I think most of you have been smelling the toxic fumes too long. This is a very real problem, stop seeing all the $$ signs. It’s not just them that is having the same issue, it’s across the country wherever there is drilling close to homes, schools, farms, etc. How do you explain that your water was fine until gas wells were placed either in the backyard or within miles of a home? It’s not someone’s imagination. It is REAL. But I’m sure you would never admit to it. It’s better to just turn your cheek and let it be their problem while you collect all the big bucks.

    #14
  15. MikeB

    Two Points:
    1) If fracking is so benign, why has my research failed to identify a single gas industry executive (senior manager) in the nation who has a fracking operation on his/her property, near their home. I have contacted gas companies and industry associations — and the answer is either “no,” or there is no response.

    Reminds one of Obamacare when the governing class changed our health care plan but kept theirs. Gas industry execs want these operations on someone else’s property but not theirs. Why? If industry had a good story to tell on this issue — as in leadership by example — it would be telling it.

    2) What if the drilling industry did what it said it would do? Last October, the industry group that calls itself the Marcellus Shale Coalition announced its “Guiding Principles” to much fanfare.

    The second guiding principle states: “We implement state-of-the-art environmental protection across our operations.” Does that mean industry will employ the latest, state-of-the-art technology at hydraulic fracturing gas well sites such as closed loop systems, vapor recovery units on condensate tanks, and zero emission glycol dehydration units? The coalition does not respond.

    See this op-ed piece published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette titled, “Guiding principles or guiding platitudes? Natural gas companies haven’t set real standards for drilling in the Marcellus Shale”
    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Link: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11041/1124307-109.stm

    #15
  16. Frank Bowers, FIC. Austin, TX 100% DAV, FIC

    I am still waiting for our government to start ordering the car manufactures to make NG autos instead of Elect cars. With Nat Gas one does not have to worry about replacing batteries, disposal of batteries and the motor can run of both Nat. Gas and regular gas. This is a far better approach than elect cars as elect cars have too many limits for us and cost 2 to 3 time more to manufacture.
    Come on folks let us demand NG stations instead of elect stations it takes about 3 to 5 minutes to fill up with Nat gas where as with electric it requires from 3 to 10 hours.
    Frank Bowers, FIC, 100% DAV Austin, TX. 78734

    #16
  17. Robert F.

    The industry gets to play with a stacked deck from state government agencies TCEQ and TRRC and even then they cannot get it right.

    These agencies aren’t regulators, they are facilitators and get their marching orders from politicians courting fat industry contributions to their campaigns.
    When emissions reach previously set levels they have 2 choices. Ignore it and hope no one notices or just up the amount to something more acceptable to the industry.

    #17
  18. unreceivedogma

    Hey SUX_2BU, God does not bestow on anyone the right to steal from, maim or kill your neighbors.

    #18
  19. Paul S.

    “Aided by advances in an extraction technique called hydraulic fracturing, the area is experiencing a natural-gas boom.”

    That depends on what the definition of “aided” is. The way that’s written, it sounds like “the area” aided. That’s a hell of a “premise.” Someone should get Rasmussen out there. That’s kind of like saying “aided by La Nina, Houston is experiencing a drought.”

    “Hastings said the transparency would vindicate industry and be ‘a game-changer when it comes to debunking myths.’”

    Yeah…those “myths” that everyone just started making up about all those chemicals that keep coming up (some of them have actually provided VIDEO EVIDENCE of their tap water catching fire) and making them and their animals sick…sometimes to the point of death. They’re not REALLY smelling anything, either…that’s just the “freedom” God blessed these companies with to “frack” our planet and our citizens a little deeper.

    How in the hell is this better than solar/wind/hydrogen? And don’t give me the “too expensive” crap, either. First of all, I’d be willing to pay a little more for those…but if we used those like we use oil and natural gas, they would be MUCH more cost efficient…and inevitably cheaper over time. Solar energy costed 7 times more just 20 years ago…and still only a small fraction of Americans use solar energy today. Oh yeah, and we don’t have to poison our animals, people and our planet, either. We need a massive protest(s) in this country regarding this issue. It (they) should be headlined something like: “Gee…what’s better? A product that we have to drill into the Earth to get to, or one that we don’t? A product that pollutes the atmosphere and corrupts our health and water supply, or one that doesn’t? A product that is going to go nothing but up in price for the long run, or one that will drop like a rock if we get on board? A product that is renewable or one that is non-renewable?”

    And to houtexfan, no one brought up anything regarding political parties in the article other than the FACT that THAT BILL was “Republican-sponsored.” The people they interviewed never said or even hinted anything at all about party affiliation. They were just talking about their situations. The only people who were affiliated with an organization were actually split one to one as to which side of this issue they were “covering.” Who cares, anyways? All that matters is what’s true…and the truth is often “biased.” In fact, you could argue that the closing statement from this article “the industry says no…but for these families, it remains an open debate” is heavily slanted the other direction. Are you freaking kidding me? Why is it “no” for the industry…and “an open debate” for the people? That says a lot to me about who/what really matters in this country. First of all, how can you “debate” with a side that “already knows” that their products that we all know are corrupting our water supply…aren’t? Seriously, why else are all these people and their animals all over the country getting sick…and with the same kinds of symptoms…where fracking is going on? Why is their tap water foaming, bubbling, and/or flammable? Also, why does the side with the evidence that not only supports their position…but also debunks the other…the one with the “open debate”…and the side that is being accused the one with the “answer?” Where is the follow up question “what about the consistent EVIDENCE against your case?” Other than a spokesman’s or lawyer’s crooked smile, what is the industry’s answer? And if you “don’t agree” that these people’s undeniably corrupted water all over the country…all of which is near drilling sites…”debunks” the other side of the argument, then what would it take for you to “believe” otherwise?

    #19
  20. Paul S.

    Frank Bowers, I’m still waiting for local, regional and national high speed solar and/or hydrogen rail systems, with lower speed trains in larger communities/cities. We shouldn’t even be using “fuel” to get around. We should invest in rail and bicycle use…along with better planning.

    #20
  21. Tad Ghost Hole

    Yea yall are probably right. We just imagined the 10 million gallons of diesel fuel illegally injected into the ground in Texas. And BETX that must be imaginary too. And quit making this about political affiliation, I hate both arms of the same morally bankrupt cabal. Sure, Texas isn’t officially the most toxic state in the union… oh wait it is. And sure, the environmental commission established to oversee the safety of our environment is caught time and time again covering up the truth for the gas industry. Don’t comment on a topic you know absolutely nothing about because it hasn’t ruined the air and water in your community.

    #21
  22. You can read more about the health effects people in the Barnett Shale are experiencing along with property value decline in our latest report:

    Flowback: How the Texas Natural Gas Boom Affects Health and Safety http://earthworksaction.org/FLOWBACK-TXOGAP-HealthReport-lowres.pdf

    #22
  23. Energy Moron

    Let’s see, the problem in Parker county was found to be from the shallow Strawn formation rather than the Barnett.

    The gas in the water wells in PA was found to be from shallow formations rather than the Marcellus (once again I will point out that the Chronicle never reported this in the article about the Chesapeake wells)

    Existing problems having nothing to do with shales or fraccing…

    My suspicion is that just like the earlier cases this is simply more urban legand being promoted by the news media… they have been wrong twice and as a professional geoscientist I bet they will be proved wrong again.

    Investigation, bring it on.

    #23
  24. Ray Farmer

    Hold on there, Moron! That’s not exactly the case.

    Industry says the gas in Parker County was from the Strawn but the EPA testing shows it matches the gas from the Range Resources well. The DOJ recently upheld the EPA action in that case.

    PA is continuing to test the wells in Dimock.

    Nice try though. You know, it really doesn’t make much sense for industry to continue to claim they have never contaminated water. We all know that’s not even statistically possible.

    #24
  25. Angry bike commuter

    This is the result of voting for George W. Bush. He deregulated the energy industry in the U.S. that they can get away with jeopardizing our environment.
    I guarantee you that the rich people who own the drilling companies would never allow a drilling rig on, or near, their homes. They all probably live no shale gas exists.
    Think about it. You guy who believe in the phrase ‘drill, baby, drill’ should relegate that term to your bedroom. Get it.

    #25
  26. Angry bike commuter

    Hey SUX_2BU:
    You need to go back to school, and learn that corruption and power corrupts those who allow it to do so.
    If you are a working stiff why the heck are you on the side of big energy? It doesn’t make sense.

    #26
  27. Dollar

    @Ray Farmer , how bout some proof with links concerning the DOJ ? That’s not been reported on this blog, which if I can say one thing for them here, they don’t let much get past them, especially if it concerns fracing ( and that’s because there’s big money in reporting on this imaginery impact of fracing ) .

    You anti-fracers just make stuff all the time, whatever suits the moment.

    And of course, the only people who really know about fracing, those in the industy, are not allowed to have an opinion. They are too well educated to be believable. We can only believe those with political agendas and conspiracy theorists.

    This is all politics, greenies who oppose fossil fuels.

    #27
  28. Dollar

    Here is where the anti-fracing idiocy is rooted, nat gas is cheap and plentiful ( exactly what a growing economy needs )

    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/4eedb5bc-8490-11e0-afcb-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1N9hQYMnb

    The anti-fossil fuel greenies know they must stop the production of shale gases, they are horrified that so much has been discovered.

    And they’ve done a good job of fear mongering to create this political opposition.

    #28
  29. Ray Farmer

    @Dollar, Google is your friend. http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/05/09/3062337/justice-department-contends-ranges.html#ixzz1LyniMUOX

    Argyle is one of the most conservative areas in Texas. In fact, except for Dallas, all of North Texas is conservative Republican. So, your premiss that anyone who opposes the current irresponsible shale drilling practices must be an “anti-fossil fuel greenie” is false. They just want industry to use the technology that is currently available to operate in a cleaner manner.

    I do know that many of those North Texas conservative Republicans are taking a hard look at how they got in this fix. They now understand that the state regulators are all in bed with industry and they welcome all the help they can get from the EPA. In local elections, all the pro drilling candidates are getting thrown out. Our politicians should get a clue.

    #29
  30. Here’s the deal, it’s pretty obvious what is going on here. These dummies bought land but did not purchase the mineral or subsurface rights – totally their choice to do so. Now they’re upset because there’s drilling going on all around them and they get no benefit from it. All they get is the inconvenience, noise, and etc., So, in a classic case of NIMBY-ism, they just want it to go away and they’re willing to make stuff up to try and cause that to happen.

    ““The doctors all asked what I’d been exposed to,” says Gant, 44 and a stay-at-home mom. “I couldn’t tell them because they won’t tell us what we’re being exposed to. But I smell things.””

    This is what suffices as evidence in the world of the anti-fracking industry. Pathetic.

    #30
  31. Dollar

    @Chris Salmon, ” This is what suffices as evidence in the world of the anti-fracking industry. Pathetic. ” ……….

    ….. exactly.

    I too wonder how long these people have lived in oil country.

    They are looking for a payoff and sad thing is , they will probably find a crooked doctor and attorney to get that payoff.

    #31
  32. Dollar

    @Ray Farmer, you just destroyed your own statements with that link.

    All that story says, is the DOJ is defending EPA over whether they have violated Range Resources constitutional right of due process.

    It says not one thing about whether the EPA has an actual leg to stand on in the dispute over the water wells.

    Either you are deliberately attempted to skew the facts, or your reading comprehension is on a very low level.

    And I can’t believe you actually posted the link to that story.

    This is far from over, and if I were a betting man, I’d put a bundle on Range Resources winning this thing.

    Your boy Armendez who heads up 6th District EPA , who is a political hack who got his job by helping Obama get elected, has gone too far here.

    He’s just another EPA hack is become waaaayyyy over zealous with his political agenda.

    #32
  33. bg

    As a professional groundwater consultant, I have worked both for and against EPA on dozens of sites around the country over a 20+ year career. From my experience there are a minority of individuals within the agency that have very strong anti-industry agendas that “color” their objectivity. Add to that are the appointed administrators like Armendez in EPA Region VI are pushing their own agendas in hopes of leapfrogging up the current administration EOE political ladder. I am glad to hear that Range is not rolling over for it so ai assume their case is solid.

    #33
  34. Jamal

    Beee Esss… I lived in the Fort Worth area during the hottest development phase of the Barnett Shale. There are probably 1.5-2.0 million people living in the active drilling areas of the Barnett, but only a minuscule number have claimed any type of problem.

    I had a drillsite no more than 500′ from my house where they drilled eight wells from over the course of two years. We had well water, kids, dogs, cattle… Not a single ill effect in the period of time they drilled to the time we had to move because of a job transfer.

    All I can say is suck it up, deal with it, and good luck to you. Your millions of neighbors will agree.

    #34
  35. Ivar

    “Meanwhile, advances in flaring and capturing emissions have helped maintain air quality within regulated norms, said Deb Hastings”
    ===
    Of course it depends on whether your monitoring 24/7 or sampling, and if the “regulated norms” are truly at a safe level for that type of exposure.

    #35
  36. To comments that say ‘just move’or comments about oil wells,this
    hydro fracking method is only about 10 yrs. old, and safety has yet
    to be PROVEN. Have a gas well pad 200′ft. from your bed, then make
    your statements.I think industry should be the one to prove first.

    #36
  37. A guy

    Fracking occurs on shale two miles beneath the surface. The cracks created could be no longer than 200-300 feet vertically (compared to 20-40 foot deep water wells).

    The answer is simple. These people live in an aread with plentiful natural gas pockets near the surface. Some of these are near wells and aquifers, and due to the hydraulic forces of drought and water use, the pockets were exposed and began to leak. This has been happening for centuries. This is why there are such bad problems with so few people. They do have gas in their water, and it is a major problem for them. However, in all cases that I am aware of where testing has been done, the gas is chemically different from the gas produced by the nearby well, proving that it is surface gas unfortunately occurring at the same time as the fracking.

    #37
  38. Sharon wilson

    Kelly Gant is a mineral owner as are many of the people who work for better drilling practices. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    #38
  39. Ray Farmer

    I said the DOJ upheld the EPA’s “action.” I did not say they upheld the science. Reading comprehension?

    If you want to learn about the science in the case, read the order.

    #39
  40. Trail Trash

    Ward in the Woods, we’ve been fracing wells for about 60-years now, not 10.

    #40
  41. Another guy

    Interesting. One comment above blames the homeowners for not purchasing the mineral estate along with the surface estate. What do you wanna bet that when the land was subdivided, either the developer or the previous landowner (probably a farmer) retained the minerals? Those homeowners probably had no option to purchase the minerals in the first place.

    As for the gas showing up being near-surface gas, is it possible that drilling activity could disturb those near-surface gas pockets? That should be investigated. Even if the gas is not from the Barnett, competent geologists should look into the question.

    All in all, it is interesting how people who for decades have not cared where in the world their energy came from suddenly find it distressing that wells are being drilled in their neighborhoods. I guess they thought natural gas came from unicorn flatulence.

    #41
  42. Sue

    People need to fight against gas drilling. First they poison your water table then you and you family and pets get poisoned and die. Everyone needs to see the documentary Gaslands. They use a witches brew of chemicals in their process of hydraulic fracturing. We need to aim towards conservation in this country. Peace Out.

    #42
  43. Tony in Cypress

    I was just in Ft. Worth for a graduation ceremony of a family member this weekend. They live near the West side of FW near White Settlement. I noticed a few drilling sites and had asked about them. I was told that they were in fact natural gas drilling sites and that they have been there for roughly 3 years or so. It’s funny that I came across this story, because I was also told that nearby neighbors were experiencing levels of methane in their drinking water (people with water wells). I was told that the debate is whether or not this is natural or has occured because of the drilling. I guess it could be a coincidence that this has happened now and was not noticed before the drilling occurred. It’s too bad that it all has to be politicized rather than investigated and resolved.

    #43
  44. Trail Trash

    Hey Sue, in regards to Gasland, did you happen to notice that the film maker had two propane bottles setting out behind his house? So while he is publically against gas drilling, apparently he is not personally against gas usage.

    #44
  45. WT Frack

    Good thing we have the TCEQ to protect us…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OAUnPdVtLw&feature=player_embedded

    er uh, wait a second…

    #45
  46. Peter

    This reminds me of what went on with black mold. Medical issues started being blamed on “Black Mold” and then the hype started and the lawyers went bonkers. Thousands of people started having medical issues, and then the insurance companies had to pay up to the tune of billions. People were winning lawsuits with huge punitive awards while others were treated to complete, and ‘free’, home remodeling. Scientists and medical doctors, the ones not being paid as professional witnesses, said there was nothing to it. They said some people have allergies to it just like cedar or ragweed, and that only people with auto-immune issues, like AIDS patients, could suffer more serious issues. Then the insurance companies stopped covering black mold. When your policy expired or you got a new one, no coverage for it. And then what happened, it suddenly went away. When people whose insurance didn’t cover black mold got it, it was now treated with bleach. It’s as though black mold suddenly became less angry and less dangerous once there was no more money. How can a mold understand finance and law and take it out on people differently once that changed? Must be some smart mold. My guess it that this is a similiar situation; however, since the oil companies can’t just ‘remove coverage’, they’re stuck with thousands of lawyers licking their chops, tens of thousands of residents who see a pay day, and hundreds of people with medical conditions due to other issues not being properly treated. Now, this could be a real issue such as asbestos, but I personally doubt it. My bet is on MONEY GRAB.

    #46
  47. WriterDude

    Some of the chemicals used in fracking are VERY toxic, including benzene, which is a known carcinogen. But – according to oil and gas;
    “Fracking is perfectly safe and the chemicals will never get into your drinking water, … yadda, yadda, yadda.”

    #47
  48. Sharon Wilson

    @a guy

    Water is much deeper in the Barnett Shale than the “30-40″ feet you mention. The Knoll’s water well is 800′ deep and the Ruggiero well is several hundred feet deep.

    The Ruggiero’s had baseline testing before fracking that showed their water as clean. Shortly after testing, follow up testing showed hydrocarbons in their water including constituents of diesel fuel at very high levels.

    As to the distance fractures travel, below are quotes from Garva vs Coastal:

    The problem is, however, that fracture stimulation isn’t a precise science, and doesn’t always crack the shale in equal portions. In some ways, cracking the shale evenly could be thought of as trying to hammer a dinner plate into equal pieces – it’s not easy.

    “You may plan a fracture that will go 1,000 feet, and it might go 2,000 feet or 400 feet,” said John S. Lowe, a professor of energy law at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law.

    But knowing what has happened thousands of feet below isn’t easy.

    “How do you prove any fracing was correct or incorrect in an area that is not precise to begin with?” asked Holden, who has practiced natural resources and energy law for more than 30 years. “Either side has to prove what’s going down below, and that’s hard for both sides.”

    #48
  49. mark

    I tend to believe she is having a reaction to other things in the home rather than the gas wells. Such as improperly cured leather furniture or most likely Chinese drywall used in the construction of their mansion. The great photo of the large flare is an exception rather than an everyday occurrence.

    #49
  50. Timothy R. Ruggiero

    Unfortunately, the Houston Chronicle will allow far more space for comments than the article itself. We used to own 10 acres and lived in relative peace with our horses. Now we have 5 acres, a ruined $12K horse barn, a $15K pipe and cable fence that used to corral the horses, now corrals Aruba Petroleum’s crap and leaking tanks and spewing well heads. We lost 75% of the value of our home as ruled 5-0 by the Review Board.

    We have a methane leak in our backyard, bright red fluid that seeps out and bubble that ignite. The TRRC says that the bubbles are ‘naturally occurring’. Funny how I missed those bubbles all these years before Aruba showed up. Aruba has seeded the former horse pasture THREE times, yet hardly weeds even grow where they spilled thousands of gallon of toxic water, and then covered it up instead of cleaning it up. Our well water is contaminated with drilling fluids, and we can prove this with the water tests we had done, both pre and post drilling. Aruba has since admitted that not only is the cement casing bad on these wells, they’re bad on ALL of their wells. Might explain why they are out here working on them week after week, almost always on the weekends with their workover rigs. The ‘just move if you don’t like it’ is an illogical argument, as is the people saying they’ve never had a symptom, therefore, all must be okay.

    Not one of the executives of Aruba or any other company live anywhere near a gas field, pipelines, compressor station or tank batteries. Aubrey McClendon, America’s most failed CEO (used to be $20 Billion in debt, now only $15 since selling off their Arkansas assets to comminist China. Aubrey owns 3 ranches, the smallest is 2440 acres-not a gas well in sight. I wonder why. You know damn well he owns the mineral rights, so what’s the hold up?

    The TRRC and TCEQ are inept and corrupt, and this has been proven time and time again. When the TRRC Commissioners can accept-and they do- not only ‘political contributions’ but even ‘campaign contributions’, even in years where they are not running for office, that’s a bought off politician. One commissioner’s experience is interior decorating. The newly elected Porter’s claim to fame is that he’s a CPA, his wealth of gas and oil experience is doing the Industry’s taxes for them. Porter openly stated that he believes operators leave well sites in better condition than when they started drilling. He obviously hasn’t been to an Aruba Petroleum site. They aren’t too hard to find, if you want to see one yourself- just look for the drill rig or tank batteries or compressor station within a stone’s throw of someone’s home. That’s Aruba’s business model.

    This is the real proof” Texas is a gas an oil state. So how bad of an operator do you have to be to get the gas and oil state to sue you? That’s right, folks, The State of Texas v. Aruba Petroleum. Texas is suing Aruba for permit and emissions violations- those same emissions that some people here have said must be just a figment of my imagination-or “I’m just mad because I’m not getting paid.”

    #50
  51. James

    MAybe they need to move to san fransisco….too damn liberal for Texas. We need to drill every where there is oil…we MUST end our dependance on foreign ooil!!!

    #51
  52. Joey G

    To Timothy R. Ruggiero,

    It’s not spelled out in this article, but I’m just curious as to who the land owner of the area where the drilling is taking place.

    #52
  53. Greg

    @Angry Bike:

    “I guarantee you that the rich people who own the drilling companies would never allow a drilling rig on, or near, their homes.”

    Like Ted Kennedy pushing wind mill farms in Ma until he found out his view might include a few farms?

    #53
  54. Ray Farmer

    Oh goodie, the energy independence lie! @James, your energy independence is being sold to China for $14/mcf.

    http://www.lngworldnews.com/usa-dominion-plans-to-export-lng-from-cove-point-terminal/

    http://preview.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-20/cheniere-surges-45-after-u-s-expands-its-lng-export-approval.html

    It’s all a big scam! Industry is ruining billions of gallons of Texas water/year and contaminating our air and soil so they can sell gas to China.

    #54
  55. Joaquin

    Wow! I’m amazed at all the junk science out there blaming HF on the causes of so many ills. There have been hundreds of thousands of acres that have/had produced natural gas or oil. Many of those formerly productive fields have urban sprawl built on top of them.

    Use Google Earth and the Historical Imagery and take a good look at the new homes on these former oil fields. Take a look at Friendswood. Timber Creek Golf Club is just one business built upon former oil fiends, Clearbrook HS is another. These fields were producing oil and natural gas since the 1920s and earlier when this area was very rural. It won’t be long before the citizens begin complaining of HF as the cause of their illnesses.

    Wait until these cry babies realize the number of natural gas, gasoline, oil, and chemicals that flow daily in high pressure pipelines just a few feet under their homes. Developers have built homes right on top of these buried pipelines just as developers have built Friendswood, Kingwood, and other master planned communities on top old oil and natural gas fields.

    It is the buyers responsibility to do his own research before he buys. He should stop blaming the energy industry for his ignorance and stupidity.

    #55
  56. William Erwin

    There are a lot of ignorant, non-initiated people out there who own surface and who do not own mineral rights. The laws of the state of Texas are so clear and well proven that mineral rights trump surface rights. To be crude about it, if I own a lease upon which you own the surface and I want to drill a well right in the middle of your swimming pool, I can and will do it. I will have to pay damages, but drill I will. People from the north who move here have loads of problems with the law as it pertains to surface versus mineral rights and they are inclined to get very wound up when the law is explained to them. OH well…I guess they can move back to michigan. As for all the headaches and what not, it is what is expected from people who buy property in an oil field …they will complain about something for ever…I guess there is some payoff in complaining.

    #56
  57. Thinker

    I’m quite amazed at how the terms drilling and fracking, oil, natural gas and propane are all tossed around as though they are synonymous. They are not. Hydraulic fracturing to bring natural gas out of the ground is not the same thing as drilling for oil. It’s not even the same thing as drilling for gas. It’s different and it is toxic and it is causing massive problems for people who live near fracking operations.

    Cars powered on natural gas are not more ecologically sound. They are probably worse polluters than cars that run on oil.

    What we need is conservation, not the harvesting of non-renewable resources at the cost of human lives.

    #57
  58. Les Thomas

    As a licensed Texas geologist I have worked for both environmental and oil and gas companies. I have taken hundreds of water samples from water wells in the DFW area. If the water wells in question are from shallow, “perched”, sands, then water use from these wells should and are highly restricted. These wells are from 20′ to 40′ deep and are much more likely to be polluted from surface contaminates, sewer, runoff, and USTs. The water is generally gray/blackish, very smelly, and loaded with dissolved solids. If the wells are from Trinity Sands they are much more likely to be clean, fresh water with low TDS’s. Oil or gas wells fraced are thousands of feet deeper and are completed through cemented, steel casing. I’m afraid that this woman was examined much too low in her body. She should have been examined “upstairs”.

    #58
  59. Trail Trash

    Black mold…good analogue. How about the great radon scare too? Now days we have fracaphobia.

    #59
  60. James

    Ahhh, you can always tell which property owners don’t own the mineral rights.

    #60
  61. Ray Farmer

    People in the Barnett Shale have blood tests that show drilling chemicals in their blood that are the same chemicals the State tested in the air around the gas wells near them. (You know the same state agency that tried to cover up the radiation in Houston water.)

    Yeah, that’s a lot like black mold and–I mean–testing blood, water, and air and finding all the same chemicals is junk science.

    Some guy who makes his living working for industry or gets a lot of money from royalty payments said it was junk science (in an anonymous comment online) or a scam so it must be true, Right?

    #61
  62. Trail Trash

    Hey Thinker, here’s something to think about… http://toxipedia.org/display/toxipedia/Toxic+Chemicals+in+Household+Products

    #62
  63. TAB

    The industry used 16,031,927 gallons of diesel for fracking in Texas and 32 million gallons nationwide. http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?q=news/waxman-markey-and-degette-investigation-finds-continued-use-of-diesel-in-hydraulic-fracturing-f
    Diesel ends up in people’s water wells. Surprise?

    The industry uses billions of gallons of water from only 4 counties in N. TX in 2010.
    Texas is in extraordinary drought.
    The biggest investors in water rights are T. Boone Pickens, Bush family and Halliburton KBR. Surprise?
    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_25/b4089040017753.htm
    http://longorshortcapital.com/halliburton-loves-that-dirty-water.htm
    http://tpjmagazine.us/walker42

    People all over the US complain about the same rashes, nosebleeds, headaches, dizziness and other health symptoms shortly after gas wells move into the neighborhood. Coincidence?

    Thousands of water wells suddenly get contaminated shortly after gas wells are hydraulically fractured near by. Coincidence?

    Here is your junk science: http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/05/20/20greenwire-frack-studys-safety-findings-exaggerated-bush-65374.html

    #63
  64. g-r

    From the article:
    “Aided by advances in an extraction technique called hydraulic fracturing, the area is experiencing a natural-gas boom.”

    This “natural gas boom” is destroying our precious resources.
    Any damage to the underground water sources is permanent.
    There is no safety in pumping thousands of gallons of poisons and waste products under our feet, especially with Republicans deliberately minimizing- through continued legislations to curb any lawsuits thay will arise from this permanent polluting.
    Sure, the drilling sites may be “over there”, but the direction of drilling turns horizontal- vs. straight down.
    And they are not required to tell the public which lateral direction they intend to travel.
    Our water resources are too precious to allow a handful of executives to receive a million-dollar Christmas bonus- and at our expense.

    #64
  65. Susan

    @ Peter,

    Wow. It seems everyone in Argyle, Bartonville and Wise County (and all of Texas) is either being paid by gas, or being screwed by gas. People assume a fancy pants neighborhood like Badminton Heights isn’t going to be industrialized, and rightfully presume disclosure will be made. Not so, not even fine print. The residents paid for un-f*cked up land, and now own tainted, devalued land.

    Either tons of people are hallucinating that their water stinks or is flammable, soil is radioactive, and their kids now have asthma because the air is full of chemicals ever since a rig went up in their front yard — or else it’s really happening.

    #65
  66. Now that Rick Perry and the TCEQ have been exposed by Houston’s KHOU last week for hiding the radioactivity in drinking water, I don’t believe anything good comes from his office or his agencies.

    This mob boss of Texas is determined to self pleasure himself in the public arena at our lives and environmental expense.

    #66
  67. Indianpaintbrush

    With all this toxicity in the fracking process, it’s absolutely amazing that not a single rig worker has been poisoned in the last 60 years. Get a grip, most of these people are looking for a payout.

    #67
  68. Trail Trash

    I’m buying stock in Alcoa. I’ve never seen so many people wearing tin-foil hats.

    #68
  69. Terry

    We can detect the chemical composition of a gaseous cloud 100 million light years away and measure ozone depletion to the billionth part per million, yet we can’t figure out what’s in the air we breathe? If the odors people are reporting are not phsycosymatic, certainly a meaning investigation would provide datum to support either the industry or the home owners. Why isn’t the EPA doing tests? Could industry monies be part of the answer?

    #69
  70. TAB

    @Indianpaintbrush, never allow facts to get in the way of defending this dirty industry.

    This is the first epidemiologic study reporting a positive association between oil and gas field work and acute myelogenous leukemia.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8595496

    Benzene is a carcinogen that causes leukemia as well as a number of other illnesses
    http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/fairpoll.asp

    The investigators concluded: “The results of thisinvestigation indicate a positive association between employment inthe Oil and Gas division and myelogenous leukemia
    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:wrshfj2UsosJ:www.epa.gov/oppt/tsca8e/pubs/8ehq/2005/sep05/8ehq_0905_16223a.pdf+leukemia+oil+gas&cd=47&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    Dr. Martyn Smith, a nationally recognized expert on benzene health effects, puts that in perspective. “Something above 5 to 10 parts per billion, I would start to become concerned that there would be potential health effects, or certainly an increased risk of health effects,” he said. “That would concern me.”
    Children are more vulnerable than adults. “Children would be more sensitive, especially if they were exposed as a fetus in the womb and then early in life,” Dr. Smith said. “We should be especially concerned about contaminated environments for pregnant women and very young children. ”
    http://www.wfaa.com/news/investigates/TCEQ-RELEASES-BARNETT-SHALE-TESTING-RESULTS-82846347.html

    Maureen Lichtveld, Tulane environmental health professor and associate director of the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium, said “short-term exposures to the types of volatile organic emissions from an incident like the well accident cause nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath and other respiratory problems. As epidemiologists, we know there’s a link between benzene exposure and leukemia
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-buchanan/residents-return-after-we_b_708288.html

    If you prefer video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=550TzSDOQtI

    #70
  71. TAB

    @Terry,

    The data already exists and the testing has already been done. The oil and gas industry in the DFW area releases more Volatile Organic Compounds into the air than all the vehicles combined per SMU study and TCEQ testing. Our vehicles are required to have emission controls, other industries are required to have emissions controls.

    In Texas the oil and gas industry is the only industry that has not been required to control their emissions. AND, the technology is readily available to cut most of these emissions while earning industry and royalty owners more profits from keeping the product in the pipes. Our politicians enable these.

    Here’s a video that explains the fugitive emissions http://youtu.be/ASMIaOjKUTo.

    Control technology is mandated in other states but not in Texas. Ask your representative why.

    #71
  72. Another Mike

    “nobody is right if everyone is wrong” Good to see a lot of comments from both ends ….. to be in the pro drilling camp you or family members usually receive financial favors from gas industry or business partners. Yes, it’s widespread in Texas. On the other end are people’s accounts about their experiences although opposers without a better argument will discount them as naysayers. I’m one who is experiencing it by living smack dab in the middle of the Barnett Shale in a small community in Denton County.

    Action Plan …..

    1)Go to the state regulatory agencies …. you soon discover their regulations and enforcement are not effective.

    2)Attend and inform the town council and try to get stronger ordinances and even a moratorium. Brick wall: 3 of the 5 council members have to
    excuse themselves from voting on gas issues because of a conflict of
    interest … they are receiving gas royalty payments.

    3) Try to get educate and warn the community. Again, greed rises it’s
    head and you find you’re in a mouth to mouth word war. You can’t save a
    community who does not want to save itself.

    4) Get a lawyer and sue the bastards …..

    #72
  73. Indianpaintbrush

    Tab you left out the Duke study that was completed recently which found NO fracking fluids contamination in water near drilling. Never read only the reports that support your position.

    #73
  74. William

    Note to stupid rich people who want a one-acre ranchette in Wise County:
    Be sure to ask the seller who owns the MINERAL RIGHTS to the land. (Clue – The Wise County Tax Office can tell you.)
    Then don’t be surprised when Devon or some other energy company drills a and fractures a gas well in your front yard, with a buried pipeline to follow.
    They don’t have to pay a dime to you, because you only own the SURFACE RIGHTS.
    Do your homework!

    #74
  75. Dollar

    All you people who look to the EPA to be your protective mother, who think everything they say is pure, and noble and virtous… well this is from your mother Lisa herself……….

    https://twitter.com/#!/dinacappiello

    dinacappiello Dina Cappiello
    EPA admin Lisa Jackson at House oversight hearing: “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”

    #75
  76. Ray Farmer

    @Dollar, Industry has such a narrow definition of fracking. I don’t think most people really care if their water was contaminated because the casing blew out due of the pressure during fracking, or if the frackers didn’t do a good cement job of if they just spilled the crap all over the surface. All they care about is one day their water is fine and the next it’s not.

    Frackers saying fracking is not responsible for water contamination is like my son saying she wasn’t pregnant when I got out of the back seat of the car.

    #76
  77. Trail Trash

    Farmer, the critical barrier in any well…let me repeat…ANY WELL, is the cement job on the surface casing. The greatest risk for fresh water aquifers is saltwater flows from shallow zones behind casing and above the production cement job. This hysteria over “fracing” is absurd.

    #77
  78. Truly, it’s a disaster on so many levels. Rich, poor. It doesn’t matter. Just like a cancer…it can be grow quickly or it can grow slowly. Why are we so willing to allow an industry to take our country into this Cancer Zone ~ for which the impacts will only be known when it’s too late?

    Backing political candidates at all levels of government ~ local, state and national who “get” this, being registered to vote and VOTING are the most important powers we have with all of this.

    #78
  79. Correction to typo: “It can grow quickly or it can grow slowly.”

    #79
  80. Trail Trash
    #80
  81. briget

    “We’re neighbors to a lot of these folks and we want them to be comfortable with this,” said Hastings.

    That’s why they decided to put a well right across from the Ruggerio’s kitchen window, there are 10 acres, they could have put it anywhere else, but the good neighbors that they are, they wanted to make sure no one would miss it! Give us a break, these people should all be in jail. The natural gas industry is taking over and destroying America, one state at a time.

    #81
  82. Ray Farmer

    @ William

    NOTE TO GREEDY LANDOWNERS WHO SELLS TRACTS OF LAND TO PEOPLE WHILE HOLDING THE MINERAL RIGHTS: You’re soon going to be SOL because NOBODY is going to buy land in Texas anymore. Think ahead!

    Shoot self in foot much?

    #82
  83. Energy Moron

    Wee hah a good old Texas shootout.

    Trail trash: Your point about surface casing is right on. Those who drilled in PA with adequate centralization should be hung at high noon (figuratively, of course) at the corral for all the reputational harm they did the industry. It was legal… yah, so what.

    Dollar: I am sure we sparred on EPA before but here we are in complete agreement. I think greenhouse gasses need regulation. And even more to the point I love the new EPA regs for CO2 sequestration. Initial fracing allowed, but then during CO2 injection can only inject at 90% of frac gradient.

    So, for all those claiming that clean coal is the answer and natural gas is awful, just how much CO2 from coal plants are they going to be able to inject in the ground with that 90% of frac grad requirement?

    I have a lot of concerns about CO2 sequestration and I support the EPAs proposed regulations since, well, if CO2 leaks into an urban environment it can be deadly.

    As Trail Trash mentioned, this hysteria over fraccing is absurd and is just like the AGW deniers hysteria (or the Al Gore/UN overhype the warming absurdity also) and makes no scientific sense whatsoever.

    #83
  84. @Energy Moron: You are “quoting” Trail Trash?? Why???

    #84
  85. @Trail Trash: I don’t knowingly drink household products in even very tiny amounts. Or inhale them, either. However, how much do you think a shale gas operator should compensate someone so that they wouldn’t mind having a surfactant cocktail with a splash of benzene after supper every evening? What’s the going rate for that in the Barnett right now?

    #85
  86. Ray Farmer

    For each million gallon frack, they use 40 tons of chemicals. That’s a tad bit more than I keep under my sink.

    #86
  87. To all of you people out there who are making fun of these home owners, all I have to say is…just wait until it happens in your own backyard. You will probably be the one “squelling” the loudest how unfair it is!
    And to those of you who work on drilling rigs and sites, and say it never bothered you. Well, if you choose to expose yourselves to toxins, just because the oil companies are paying you big money, then you cannot complain when you eventually get diagnosed with some form of cancer.

    #87
  88. Jeff

    Not a single mention of the documentary “Gasland”? I would recommend that some folks on this board watch it.

    #88