Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Highlights from "Sacrificed to Shale"

The energy crisis facing our nation has many facets. One that has been downplayed by the oil and gas industry, regulatory governmental overseers, and hopeful leaseholders, for obvious rea$ons, is the enormous cost in terms of individual, public and environmental safety, health and well-being. However, things are beginning to change. The toxic damage being done can no longer be minimized or brushed aside. Awareness is growing and concern is mounting.

The cover story in the Oct. 14 Fort Worth Weekly is an in depth look at the health, safety and quality of life problems facing DISH,TX on almost every level. The heart of the problem seems to be bad regulation on the part of the government and its agencies. (It should be, by now, a foregone conclusion that industry does not self regulate with the greater good in mind.)
The concerns of the people of DISH demand accountability! People everywhere deserve protection from this kind of rampant disregard for Life Itself.
Following are excerpts from "Sacrificed to Shale", the excellent, comprehensive five page exposé, written by Peter Gorman:

...the gas industry has picked DISH and a few acres just outside its city limits as a perfect place for not one or two but eleven compression stations, to which gas is piped from wells all over northern Tarrant and Denton counties, to be treated, compressed, and sent out into bigger transmission lines. Residents say the veritable industrial corridor thus created emits hydrocarbons that kill trees, sicken and endanger animals and people, and are making their properties worthless.
Losing the use of land is only one of the issues posed by pipelines. Gas running through gathering lines is generally filled with chemicals and water that corrode the pipes; it's also generally unodorized until it reaches the compressor - which means people nearby won't know they are in danger if a leak develops. Companies have mechanisms to alert them to weakening pipes, but leaks and explosions in the Barnett Shale have shown those systems aren't foolproof.
The compressor stations also regularly release noxious chemical fumes. The acrid smell burns the throat and nose and sears the eyes. "Some days you can hardly breathe anywhere in DISH," Tillman said. "And then the trees started dying, so we wondered what was actually in those fumes."
... "We've lost a lot of trees in DISH. And a number of them were cedar trees, which are almost impossible to kill. Those trees breathe just like we do, so when they start dying, you've got to pay attention," he said. "They're the canary in the coal mine for our air." Thus far, dozens of trees in the little town and right outside it have died.
"We knew something was terribly wrong," Tillman said. But their repeated complaints to the state agencies fell on deaf ears. The agencies "basically asked the companies to investigate themselves," said Tillman, "and they came up clean every time."
According to an analysis of the [independently contracted] Wolf Eagle air study done by chemist and microbiologist Wilma Subra, the air samples from DISH contained the kind of chemical cocktail that would have been expected near refineries. Subra, who has been studying oil and gas field waste since the 1970s, said the DISH air samples included varying combinations of the carcinogens benzene and trimethylbenzene; napthalene, which is considered a potential human carcinogen; carbon disulfide, which can be absorbed through the skin and affects the central nervous system and many other bodily systems; and xylene compounds, which are neurotoxins. Subra is a member of the board of Earthworks, a nonprofit group that works with communities to address the destructive impacts of mineral development.
Even worse, she said, "No one can tell you what happens when you add these compounds together. It might be that in some cases they cancel each other out. Or they might be exponentially worse when you have a mix like that. And with what we know about chemicals, it's probably exponentially worse."
[Re: Long term exposure, Wilma Subra said:]
"Two years is sufficient time to cause neurological damage." ...
"You will not be automatically safe from the chronic, long-term health conditions just because you remove yourself from exposure to those chemicals," Subra said. "The damage could have already been done or could still show itself down the line, years later."
Tillman said that each of the companies that has a gas compressor at DISH has told him that their emissions are within acceptable levels established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. "And that might be so," said Tillman. "But what happens when you have 11 of these things sitting next to each other? Even if each one individually is acceptable, add them up, and you wind up with nearly 11 times the acceptable level of toxins being released into our air."
DISH officials and residents aren't opposed to all gas drilling or the kinds of industrial activities that come with it. But many of them are furious at how it's been handled in their town and at the state's part in what has happened.
"I am against the way these people have elected to operate - quick and dirty methods, cheap methods," Cisco, the town commissioner said. "It's regrettable that the Railroad Commission and TCEQ have hoodwinked us into thinking they are protecting the citizens of our community when it seems more like they're on the payroll of these companies."
Tillman agreed. "How on earth could the people of this town suffer and complain about the air quality for so long, and I am the first one to do an air quality study?" he said. "This is squarely on the shoulders of TCEQ, and they let this happen to us. I just feel betrayed by the state."


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