In a previous post, we discussed a "spill"(dump) at Range Resources' Rayzor Ranch drill site. Somehow, I missed a request from a reader to add a video of the "supposed" 5th wheels.  So...

Texas' environmental commission serves its customers well. Too bad they're not the public.

TCEQ is exposed- thanks to the Observer's Forrest Wilder!

...both its critics and friends will agree on this: TCEQ is no EPA. While the federal agency is a favorite punching bag of right-wing Texas politicians like Gov. Rick Perry, you don’t hear warnings ringing out about the evils of the TCEQ. That’s because, in decision after decision, the Texas agency that’s supposed to protect the public and the environment has sided with polluters.

Perry, who appoints the three TCEQ commissioners, and the TCEQ bosses say they’ve strived to balance economic growth with protecting the environment. It doesn’t feel that way to the agency’s fierce and numerous critics.

“The problem with some of my colleagues’ balancing is they always balance it toward economic development and don’t let the environment have an equal consideration,” says Larry Soward, a former TCEQ commissioner who now works with environmental groups on strategies to improve the agency....

This quote sums up the state government's approach to protecting the health, safety and welfare of all Texans:
 “It’s never been worse,” says Jim Schermbeck of the clean-air group Downwinders at Risk. “Perry makes Bush look like a Greenpeace smokestack-sitter.”

Here is the part of the story about TCEQ's love of the Barnett Shale

Since 2005, a drilling frenzy in the Barnett Shale—an extensive geological formation with trillions of cubic feet of natural gas—has overtaken much of urban and suburban Fort Worth. It’s been a bonanza for gas producers, local government coffers, and residents receiving royalty checks. But there’s a backlash, fueled by fears of groundwater contamination, pipeline explosions, and evidence that at least some of the 14,000 wells drilled so far are leaking dangerous toxins into the air.

Last September, the tiny town of DISH—frustrated by the lack of action on TCEQ’s part—announced the results of a bombshell air-quality study it spent 10 percent of the town’s annual budget to commission from outside experts. Air samples from residential areas near gas-compressor stations contained high levels of benzene, and other carcinogens and neurotoxins—much higher than TCEQ health-based standards. Evidence in hand, DISH Mayor Calvin Tillman, a conservative who’s become the bane of North Texas gas interests, called on the industry to clean up its act or get out of town.

The fallout from the DISH study prompted TCEQ to do its own testing during three days in December. On Jan. 12, Deputy Director John Sadlier presented the much-anticipated results to the Fort Worth City Council.

“Everything you hear today will be good news,” Sadlier told the packed council meeting. The commission staff, he said, had visited 126 sites in the Fort Worth area and found no evidence of benzene or other cancer-causing chemicals. “Based on this study, the air is safe,” Sadlier told the council.

Later, Mayor Mike Moncrief, who comes from a prominent oil and gas family, pronounced himself “grateful” for the results. Since that burst of good news, Fort Worth city officials, including Moncrief, have generally resisted calls to impose more stringent rules on gas drilling. “Sadlier’s comments only emboldened the council’s belief that the air quality is okay,” wrote Don Young, a drilling reform activist in Fort Worth.

If council members had squinted, they would have seen a disclaimer stamped at the bottom of each page of Sadlier’s PowerPoint presentation: “This data is for screening purposes only and may include samples that did not meet the established quality control acceptance criteria,” the disclaimer read.

As drilling activists discovered, the state’s study was rubbish. The testing was done on cold days, when benzene tends to be inactive. The inspectors took samples only if the levels measured 140 times the Metroplex average—far above state health standards. Only eight samples were collected.

Confronted with these facts, commission PR staffers stuck with the original message. “We were trying to do that really fast,” TCEQ spokesperson Terry Clawson told the Fort Worth Weekly. “If you are going to do testing and use certified labs and have it legal quality, that takes a long time.”

TCEQ used those results to “prove” that benzene wasn’t a problem. And an internal investigation prompted by an anonymous fraud complaint revealed that upper managment, including Sadlier and Executive Director Mark Vickery, knew the study was flawed. In fact, they ordered that the eight canister samples “be analyzed using a more sensitive laboratory technique.” The results came back on Jan. 22, 10 days after Sadlier’s rosy depiction at the Fort Worth meeting. Four of the eight samples measured benzene at levels above what the state considers safe for long-term health. Still, the fraud investigation states, Sadlier was “not confident in accuracy [sic] of the results from the field” or the fresh lab findings, and ordered inspectors to return to Fort Worth for more samples.

It was a nice gesture. Too bad he didn’t tell anybody outside the agency. The report notes that at the time the investigation was concluded, on Feb. 22, “neither Fort Worth officials nor the media have been alerted.”

They still haven’t. “Where the heck are the results of the follow-up sampling they did?” asks Sharon Wilson, a drilling reform advocate who lives near Decatur. “That was never released.”

Wilma Subra, a Louisiana chemist who has conducted her own analysis of Barnett Shale emissions, says the investigation raises questions of transparency. “The public got one message, but what you’re reading me is a totally different message,” she says. “Not letting the public and media know of the exceedances is of great concern. This information is critical to the community.”

When it comes to air-testing, TCEQ frequently fails. In July 2009, an explosion and fire rocked Citgo Petroleum Corp.’s Corpus Christi refinery, severely burning one worker and sending 4,000 pounds of deadly hydrofluoric acid across Nueces Bay. Hydrofluoric acid is no joke; it’s considered one of the most dangerous substances in American refining, capable of causing severe damage to the skin, eyes, heart, lungs and bones.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board called the Corpus accident a “significant near-miss” disaster after a six-month investigation. Communities near the refinery, long exposed to releases from nearby industrial facilities, worried that they could be exposed to a chemical cloud from the July release. TCEQ seemed oblivious to the severity of the situation. Nearly three hours after the fire started, Region 14 head Susan Clewis was settling down for a movie. “Apparently there is a fire at Citgo,” Clewis wrote in an e-mail. “I’m walking into the Harry Potter movie.” She noted that Larry Elizondo, a Citgo spokesperson and Corpus city councilman, had “refused to give” a regional TCEQ employee information on the incident.

Seven hours after the fire started, TCEQ decided to do some air monitoring. “With the media attention this event is getting, I think it would be best to conduct air monitoring,” wrote Kelly Ruble, a Region 14 employee, in an email. “The old saying ‘negative data is better than no data.’” The air monitoring equipment TCEQ used—finally—was incapable of testing for hydrofluoric acid.

In another crisis moment this March, when a gas well owned by Devon Energy Corp. exploded in rural Wise County, injuring two workers, Vickery asked Sadlier if air monitoring was needed. Sadlier responded: “I don’t believe so—the fire is out. We spoke to EPA—they contemplated sending the START unit but ended up doing nothing (which I prefer).”

A True Hero!!! She has helped many in the Barnett Shale, including Dentonites

Chemist Wilma Subra was working at her desk by a picture window one cool June evening in 2006 when the passenger in a passing car fired a single shot in her direction. The bullet lodged in a brick a few feet from where she was sitting.

Not your typical day at the office for a chemist, but Subra is not a typical chemist.

"I think they were just trying to scare me and get me to back off," says Subra, a soft-spoken grandmother who has made it her life's mission to help communities fight against chemical threats from industry.

Subra didn't quit. She moved her desk away from the window and went back to work. The gunman was never caught.

"I can't close up and not be out there," she says matter-of-factly.
"Out there" means traveling to communities across the country worried about pollution.

Read the full story: Environmental warrior takes on industry and watch "Toxic America," a special two-night investigative report with Sanjay Gupta M.D., June 2 & 3 at 8 p.m. ET on CNN. They attempt to answer this question: Is enough being done to protect us from chemicals that could harm us?

She has helped many in the Barnett Shale, including Dentonites.  After learning about Range Resources' Rayzor Ranch drilling plans, the residents gave her a call asking for help.  She spent many hours on the phone offering advice and providing a general education on the drilling process.  Our request for conditions to be added to the SUP were solid because of her guidance.  Unfortunately, the city did not follow our suggestions.  Look what that got us!

Please help!

Please show your opposition to a Compressor Station in the Argyle area by signing this online petition.  In other states, Williams, the company who wants to install the Compressor Station, uses best practices and recycles drilling waste on-site, but best practices are not mandated in Texas so Williams refuses to use them. "Texans deserve best practices too." said Susan Knoll. "People who profit from the wells should deal with the waste".

 Lets help Argyle & Bartonville and show how we are a united front, especially when it comes to messing around with the health and safety of Texans.

Greed and Gas Divide Community

Mothers protest toxic waste dump in neighborhood.

For Immediate Release:
At dawn on Monday, May 24th, a group of mothers and children protest Williams Petroleum's exploitation of lax regulation in Texas as they install a massive toxic waste facility in the heart of their neighborhood. Neighbors call the facility on Jeter Road in Argyle, Texas DISH 2.

Concerned mother and founding member of Argyle - Bartonville Communities Alliance, Jayme Sizelove, says, "This dangerous site is too close to homes. It's only 100 feet from my son's bedroom window."

Leaseholders and Argyle Town Council Members made back-room deals with Williams Petroleum to move the waste from the site where it's produced and shove it off on the unsuspecting neighbors. Rather than recycle gas waste onsite, Williams is transporting the waste to a residential neighborhood.

This site is in the Denton Creek flood plain where runoff can contaminate drinking water downstream. "As far as we know, proper permits, plats, hydrology studies and emergency plans have not been made," said Jana DeGrand an alliance member.

In other states, Williams uses best practices and recycles drilling waste onsite, but best practices are not mandated in Texas so Williams refuses to use them. "Texans deserve best practices too." said Susan Knoll. "People who profit from the wells should deal with the waste".

Onsite recycling would eliminate:
• unregulated toxic waste pipelines
• massive truck traffic in a residential area
• explosive and toxic waste near children
• toxic compounds in air from fugitive emissions

Drillers should Drill-Right Texas or not drill at all.
For more information:
Argyle - Bartonville Communities Alliance

Drill-Right Texas: Best Oil & Gas Practices for Texas,

A Must See Presentation from the Argyle - Bartonville Community Alliance

Argyle - Bartonville Community Alliance addresses the Denton County Commissioner Court regarding concerns about natural gas drilling. In response, the Court agreed to set-up a task force to address the concerns of residents affected by Barnett Shale drilling.  Let's keep our fingers crossed that the task force will be composed of individuals who are knowledgeable about the entire drilling process and its effects on Texans' health, welfare and safety not to mention the environmental impacts.  Since the court stated that they found the Drill Right Texas as a good starting point, we hope to see someone from OGAP put on the task force.

ABCA Addresses Denton Commissioner Court from Runner Susan on Vimeo.

Thanks to Txsharon for the video!

Roberson Ranch Update

Roberson Ranch residents are "cautiously optimistic" that the proposed gas wells may be moved further away from their homes.  They are in talks with the company.  The Denton's planning commission will look at the issue again on May 26. Ultimately, the City Council will have the final say.  Read the full story here

Show support for the Robson Ranch residents

The residents of the Robson Ranch retirement community are facing the possibility of having gas wells drilled within 750 feet from their homes.  The Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to revisit the item on Wednesday night. Read the full story here.

They could use our support. 

Denton Planning & Zoning Commission Meeting
City Hall, 215 E. McKInney st
6 p.m. work session,  and 6:30 p.m. regular meeting

A Juxtaposition of the Texas border and natural gas drilling operations

Come out and Meet the Texas Railroad Commissioner candidate

Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Time:5:00pm - 6:30pm
Location:Tierney's Cafe patio
208 East Main Street
Lewisville, TX 75057-4044
(972) 353-2109

Jeff Weems is the Democratic candidate for Texas Railroad Commissioner. the state government body that is responsible for oil and gas regulation. The presence of gas drilling in the Barnett Shale is as important in our communities of Lewisville and Flower Mound.

Join us for a reception with Jeff Weems. Bring your questions, bring a neighbor, bring the kids, and enjoy one of Lewisville's local restaurant.

An Educational Event

Dear friends,

I hope that you can join me on May 12th for an evening of education and entertainment for the Fort Worth premiere of GASLAND, winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. We are showing GASLAND in the beautiful theater at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and hosting an exclusive after party with Josh Fox, the filmmaker of GASLAND.

The invitation is attached, and the RSVP page is at http://gasland.earthworksaction.org/.
The evening will begin at 5:30 PM with a pre-party which will be open to all and will include a cash bar and snacks. At 6:30 PM GASLAND will be screening in the Modern’s Auditorium. For the screening, we are asking for a donation of $15. Afterwards, Josh Fox will be on hand to answer some questions. Then, at 8:30 PM the VIP After-party with Josh and members of Texas OGAP will begin, for those making donations of $100.

All proceeds from the evening’s events will benefit Texas OGAP. To RSVP, go to http://gasland.earthworksaction.org/.
See you on May 12th!

Kudos to Corinth

This is such an inspiring story.  The citizens of Corinth led by Cora Bell, aka "the thunder from down under," rallied together and successfully prevented XTO from having 11 variances granted.  Among other things, XTO was hoping to move the wells closer to homes and schools and install tank battery/storage tank within 100 feet of a residential structure.  

This should set an example not only for other cities but also for other groups that success is possible.  To think that they managed to do so much in such a short span of time.  WAY TO GO CORINTH!