Report: Texas nat gas regulators fall down on job

Texas’ booming natural gas drilling industry needs closer scrutiny from state and federal regulators, not a more hands-off approach, according to a report issued today by a grassroots environmental group.

The study, “Natural Gas Flowback: How the Texas Natural Gas Boom Affects Health and Safety” says the state’s air, water and drilling regulators lack the resources — and in many cases the resolve — to adequately protect the public from poor drilling and production practices.

The report points to the many Texas gas drilling conflicts in recent years, including complaints in the town of Dish about noise and emissions from gas compressor stations and the more recent conflict between Range Resources and a pair of Wise County property owners who say drilling contaminated their drinking water.

The report’s take on the data collected around that incident will no doubt differ from that of many FuelFix readers. But the group, Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project, says there are too many such incidents to ignore.

Too often citizen testimonies of health effects or evidence gathered by citizens, as in this report, are dismissed as anecdotal evidence and as long as each case is treated as an isolated incident the larger pattern is ignored.  But when so many citizens across almost two dozen counties report similar complaints and symptoms associated with gas drilling, something is wrong.”

Among the recommendations from the report:

  • The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality must step up monitoring and enforce emission limits from oil and gas exploration and production equipment.
  • The Texas Railroad Commission should stop being an industry lapdog, adopt rules that provide full public transparency on hydraulic fracturing fluids and rules for closed-loop drilling systems. Oh, and the TXRRC should be completely overhauled.
  • The Texas Water Development Board must evaluate the impact of fracking on water supplies.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should identify sources of drilling chemicals in groundwater and regulate air pollution from oil and gas exploration and production.

Other groups backing the report include Public Citizen Texas, Environment Texas, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Clean Water Network, Downwinders at Risk, Texas Drought Project, Argyle-Bartonville Communities Alliance , Dallas Area Residents for Responsible Drilling, Flower Mound Citizens Against Urban Drilling and the Wise County Alliance for Responsible Drilling.

The full study can also be seen below:

2011 Texas Nat Gas Report From Earthworks