Friday, March 29, 2013

What Happened to Air and Water Monitoring?

First of all – has anyone else noticed that if you go onto municode and find the gas well ordinance (subchapter 22 of the development code)…it is unchanged! It looks like it is an old version, because it still has a 1,000 foot setback listed instead of 1,200 feet. Someone should fix that…
OK – onto my point: Just before City Council voted to adopt our new gas well drilling and production ordinance, they made three key moves. First, they increased setback distances to 1,200 feet. Second, they regulated some aspects of compressor stations. Third, they promised an air and water monitoring program. On the third point, they noted that this would not be part of the ordinance for reasons I think I understand. But that meant the monitoring program was left unspecified. It was one of three aspects of the ordinance (zoning and pipelines being the others) that I gave an “I” for incomplete when I graded the ordinance a couple months ago.
Well, it is still incomplete. I have recently come to learn that basically nothing has been done to fulfill this promise. We cannot let this one slip through the cracks and fade away...but as of now (two months after the promise was made) all the following key questions remain unanswered:
1.      How comprehensive will the program be? (e.g., how many sites?)
2.      What kinds of technologies and methodologies will be used? (e.g., will it be periodic or continuous; will it use summa canisters or FLIR cameras…will they be gas find FLIRs; will it use gas chromatography to speciate precisely the chemicals detected?)
3.      What pollutants will be monitored for?
4.      What will we do with the information/data acquired? (e.g., post on website, share with TCEQ?)
5.      How will it be funded and what will the budget be?
6.      Who will we contract with and what responsibilities will they have?
The city’s Executive Team is meeting now and apparently this program is on their agenda. So, hopefully we will start getting some answers soon. But we need to politely but persistently inquire about the progress of this program.
I believe monitoring is important because of the way we do innovation. We enroll new technologies (like fracking) into society without fully comprehending their various environmental and health consequences. In this way, we are constantly running real-world experiments. Any good experiment needs to be closely monitored so that we can gather information about problems and make adjustments accordingly. Thus, for me, what is most troubling about fracking are things like secret chemicals and court-ordered non-disclosure agreements that prevent us from learning and adjusting (what I call ‘renovating’). We also suffer from a lack of information about impacts to air and water. Case in point: TCEQ has just 21 ambient air monitoring stations in the nearly 10,000 mile2 DFW area.
If we are going to adopt this proactionary approach to innovation, then we must monitor the experiment, hold bad actors accountable, and continuously improve. One of the injustices built into our capitalist mode of innovation is that monitoring equipment is often exceedingly expensive – thus sparingly used. I plan on learning more about this in the coming weeks, so look for updates.  


  1. Thank you for this great info on well drilling. Do you know of the best company to do water well drilling?

  2. I demand air monitors for all road projects because I drove by one the other day on 380 & it smelled funny!

  3. Your post has been excellent and nice. Your topic is useful for all. I come back in your site when you will provide new post. Thanks for sharing.