Why do Denton residents have to spend thousands to detect benzene in their backyards?
There are two things I want to address in this blog.
I have asked Dalton Gregory to remove my endorsement statement for his election from his blog and he
will do so on
Sunday when he returns from a trip. It was inappropriate for
me to issue political endorsements like that when I am working as a member of a
non-profit educational group.
monitoring is so important because in the backwards Texas regulatory system, fracking is treated
as innocent until proven guilty. Even though we know the industry is using
carcinogenic and toxic chemicals, the burden of proof falls on the residents to establish that those
chemicals are trespassing into their
neighborhoods and their bloodstreams.
can monitor our air to keep it safe and
healthy? State agencies don’t have the funding, personnel, or
equipment to even come close to an adequate monitoring program. There are
18,000 gas wells on the Barnett Shale and TCEQ has six air monitors! And when
TCEQ responds to complaints, they are going to be taking measurements long
after the emissions event and after the industry knows they are coming.
means it is up to local communities to monitor the industry. Southlake, Grand
Prairie, and Hurst all have monitoring programs as part of their drilling
it came time for the final vote in January, 2013, Denton City Council, including Councilman Gregory, did
not include a monitoring program in the ordinance. BUT they promised
to make an air monitoring program as a stand-alone requirement. This, they
said, would be even better, because it would avoid the vested rights issue so
that monitoring would apply to all gas well sites – old and new.
expected City Council would get to work on this right away. But they didn’t. In
fact, in the fifteen months since they made that promise, they have had one
meeting about air monitoring. Our
elected officials have done nothing to monitor the air and not enough to
protect the health and safety of the people who elected them.
know lots of people pushed the issue, but I’ll just speak for myself. I wrote
e-mails and made phone calls. I met with city officials to see how we could
start a program. I wrote blogs trying to spur action. DAG brought Jay Olaguer,
one of Texas’ leading air quality scientists, to Denton to give a presentation
on monitoring. Jay and I tried to work with Denton and other cities to build a
regional consortium for monitoring.
was little cooperation and no action.
city could have required in the
ordinance that operators pay
the expense of monitoring. Instead,
citizens have to pass the hat to collect the thousands of dollars it takes to
get Summa canister samples. They have to wait for months on end to get a few
hours with one of the only FLIR cameras in the region (these cameras can cost
$40,000 or more).
when citizen test results confirm the
presence of toxic chemicals,industry
spouts lies about how the cameras are only seeing heat waves when in
fact those cameras are designed
to detect and make visible only
toxic chemicals, not heat waves.
This is the same old stuff out of the tobacco industry’s playbook.
The city’s failure to implement its own monitoring
system has given industry the ability to say there is no danger, placing the
time and expense and responsibility of proving that there is danger on the
backs of the citizens instead of the city.
is exactly why the citizens have taken the job of writing an adequate fracking
ordinance into their own hands.
of this once again goes to show why we need to ban fracking in Denton. We really, really tried to
make it compatible with our city. We tried to internalize costs. We tried to
provide safety and monitoring assurances. But at every turn, we met with
need to flip this backwards system. Ban fracking until we have proof that it
can be done safely – that it can be done without sending benzene into the homes
where our kids are sleeping,into the schools that they attend and
playgrounds and parkswhere they