Tag Archives: barnett-shale

Sierra Club Welcomes Safeguards on Oil and Gas Drilling

TexasRailroad Commission and U.S. EPA Implementing New Rules

'Gas Flare Arlington' by Wesley Miller

Today the Railroad Commission of Texas proposed a new rule for implementing HB 3328, the mandatory natural gas ‘fracking’ disclosure bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year. Under the Commission’s proposal, drillers of new natural gas wells will be required to begin reporting their use of chemicals, additives and base fluids as soon as the rules go into effect.

“The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club appreciates the hard work of the Railroad Commission staff and its commissioners in issuing a proposal sooner rather than waiting until 2012 as required under the law,” stated Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “With natural gas companies fracking at lightning speed all over the state — in the Barnett Shale in North Central Texas, the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas, Haynesville Shale in East Texas and the Permian Basin in West Texas, it is past time to require that operators tell the public what chemicals they are sending down their gas production wells. We urge the public to read the proposed rule, make comments and attend the public meeting in October. Mandatory disclosure is a good first step toward proper regulation of oil and gas exploration.”

The proposed rules will be published in the Texas register for a 30-day public comment period beginning in early September, and the Railroad Commission has scheduled a public hearing on October 5th in Austin.   Assuming the Commissioners adopt a final rule in early November, the rules will become effective in late November.

A copy of the proposed rules and the process for submitting comments and participating in the public hearing can be found at the Railroad Commission website at http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/rules/proposed.php

 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Oil and Gas Facilities Rule-making.  In addition to the proposed rules by the Railroad Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new air emissions standards on oil and gas facilities.  The EPA will hold three public meetings – on September on September 27, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 28, in Denver, Colorado, and September 29, in Arlington, Texas.   The Arlington hearing will be held from 9:00 AM CST until 8:00 PM CST at the Arlington Municipal Building in the City Council Chambers located at 101 W. Abram Street, Arlington, Texas 76010; telephone: (817) 459-6122.

Individuals and organizational representatives can contact:   Ms. Joan C. Rogers (919) 541-4487; fax number: (919) 541-3470; email address:rogers.joanc@epa.gov (preferred method for registering), no later than by 4:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time), 2 business days prior to each hearing.     

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Posted by Donna Hoffman, August 29, 2011


Texas Legislators Consider Gas Fracking Disclosure

Natural Gas Fracking Bill Set for Debate in Texas State House Today

 (Austin) The Texas House of Representatives is set to consider a major bill today on the House Floor which, for the first time, would require operators of natural gas wells in Texas to disclose the chemicals, hydro-fracking fluids and additives they use when “fracking” a gas well. House Bill 3328 by State Representative Jim Keffer – a Republican from Eastland whose district near Fort Worth has experienced heavy Barnett Shale gas drilling activity — would be a major change in regulation of the oil and gas industry in Texas.  Texas would become one of a handful of states now requiring that companies disclose what they are injecting underground, and make that information available on a public website, on a well-by-well basis.

The bill could include an amendment promoted by the Texas Oil and Gas Association that would limit full disclosure of all chemicals by only requiring full disclosure on a publicly-available website of “MSDS” chemicals – those regulated by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) – and not all chemicals. Instead, the “other chemicals” will be on a separate list given to the state agency as part of their well completion reports, and those chemicals will not include the actual volume or concentration.

“Under a proposal being advocated by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, Texas would have an “MSDS plus” system, certainly better than nothing, but a bill that is far short of the much stronger bill originally introduced by Rep. Keffer,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We hope the House and Senate will consider strengthening the bill to make it a true model bill for the nation.”

Among the changes Sierra Club is seeking in order to fully support the bill are:

  • Full well-by-well website disclosure of all chemicals, including those regulated by OSHA and those not regulated by OSHA;
  • A more inclusive list of who can actually challenge any chemicals claimed as trade secrets, including those landowners living within a mile of any well shaft;
  • A process for the agency to determine if any trade secret claims are meritorious and not give a blanket protection to trade secrets claimed by the industry.

“Even as gas companies continue to drill the Barnett Shale in North Texas, new shale finds like the Eagle Ford in South Texas are being developed at a breakneck speed, without any disclosure of the chemicals being injected underground.  The injected fracking fluids are impacting the water and land of thousands of individuals in Texas,” Reed noted further.

“What happens in Texas is important because Texas is the leading gas producer in the country and the state where hydro-fracking technology got its start,” said Deb Nardone with Sierra Club’s Natural Gas Campaign.  “Getting disclosure regulations right in Texas could help bolster disclosure in other states.  Weaker disclosure in Texas would provide dangerous traction for the industry to seek limited disclosure in other states.”       #   #   #

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Who Wants to Retire 4,000 MW of Coal in Texas?

We do!

Fraser’s Energy Plan a Good First Start On Cleaning the Air in Texas But Environmental and Community Stakeholders Must Be Part of the Process

Sierra Club commends the recent filing of the proposed Texas Energy Policy Act by Senator Fraser in the state Senate but calls on the Texas legislature to ensure that environmental and community stakeholders are included in this plan.  The bill, entitled Energy Policy Act, SB15, proposes a robust planning process where an appointed Texas Energy Policy Council examines Texas’s electricity needs.  A key provision in the proposed plan asks the Council to reduce air pollution in the state to help major metropolitan areas like Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston meet the minimum health safety guidelines of the Clean Air Act.  Currently, close to 20 counties are in non-attainment, meaning that the air is so polluted, it does not meet minimun standards of safety.

“This proposed bill is an important first step at addressing Texas’s air pollution within our borders, as well as our role in regional pollution.” said Jen Powis Senior Regional Representative for Sierra Club.  “But while a year long planning process is an important first step, all of the key stakeholders, including the environmental community, must be at the table.”

The bill as drafted amends Texas’s electricity industry deregulation bill (Texas Utilities Code, Chapter 39) and calls for the plan to retire the dirtiest 4000 MWs of power plants.  In 2002, when the deregulation bill was originally filed and adopted, the legislature created a strong renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to encourage new jobs and new growth in emerging industries like wind generation.  Texas currently leads the nation in wind generation and has met that aggressive RPS over a decade earlier than anticipated.  Sierra Club points to the need for doing the same for energy efficiency programs and solar power with a non-wind RPS.

“Texas needs a stronger goal for efficiency and policies that allow solar industries to set up shop here.” said Cyrus Reed, Sierra Club’s Conservation Director for the Lonestar Chapter.  “If this bill only retires coal in order to ramp up existing natural gas, it misses a huge opportunity to bring new jobs and clean energy industries to Texas.  By many accounts, Texas could lead in job creation in these sectors if the Legislature were to adopt policies promoting clean energy.”

The bill’s plan aimed at promoting Texas’s home-grown natural gas industries ignores the major threats to air and water pollution that citizens in the Barnett Shale are dealing with first hand.   The production of shale gas carries its own set of issues, including protection of water resources, benzene emissions, and ozone impacts. As shale gas production is currently expanding to other areas of the state, those issues must be resolved.

“If the state legislature is going to address energy and environmental issues on a comprehensive basis, it has to provide greater protections for public health from natural gas production as well as improve the state’s overall effort clean up our air,” said Ken Kramer, Director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “We’re pleased to see that Senator Fraser recognized the state’s pollution problems in crafting this planning process.  But we need to move forward now in strengtherning the state’s pollution control programs while we develop a state energy plan that could further enhance a clean energy future for Texas.”

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TCEQ goes one step forward, two steps back on air emissions from frackin’

Wednesday, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality finally approved new air emission regulations on permit-by-rules and standard permits for oil and gas facilities. That’s good news because the rules will mean new facilities will need to actually assess their air emissions, do some monitoring and follow best management practices and get this — even HAVE to register their information with our regulatory authority. Again, the new rules are much better than existing law, which is basically nonexistent on air emissions.

But here’s the bad news — after receiving untold pressure from the industry, they not only carved out an exemption for “Smaller” facilities, they decided to only apply the new rules in the Barnett-Shale, larger Dallas – Fort Worth area. While the Barnett-Shale in  Texas is where development is still growing — and the area where air emissions have already impacted both the health of people but also impacted the area’s ability to come into compliance with ozone standards — it is not the only place where air emissions are important.

So the rest of the state – South Texas’s Eagleford shale play, North Texas’s Woodford Shale Play, etc — gets nothing for now. TCEQ Commissioners did instruct staff to begin working on a new rule package for the rest of the state..soon.

Keep in mind that the rest of the state is developing rapidly. According to Texas Monthly Oil and Gas Statistics, the top ten gas counties include not only some West and Dallas-area counties like Tarrant, Denton and Freestone, but also south Texas counties like Zapata and Webb.. But apparently those people are not yet important enough to protect with the new rules…

Here’s an article in Fort Worth on the new rules adopted by the TCEQ

Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club

Stopping the Frack Attack

From our national offices, we bring you the latest on fracking and the national effort to find out what exactly is in those chemical cocktails…

Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, (512) 289-8618
Gwen Lachelt, EARTHWORKS, (505) 469-0380

Americans Call For Tighter Regulation of Hydraulic ‘Fracking’ in Oil and Gas Drilling

Overflow Crowds of Concerned Residents Attend EPA Public Meetings across the Country

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – Thousands of Americans are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a comprehensive study of the environmental and health threats of natural gas fracturing. Pollution from this drilling technique – commonly known as fracking – has been the focus of three heavily attended public meetings in Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania this summer. The final meetings, next week in Binghamton, N.Y., drew so much interest that the EPA was initially forced to reschedule them.

“Natural gas companies should welcome additional scrutiny and embrace regulation that will protect public health and the environment,” said Sierra Club Deputy Executive Director Bruce Hamilton. “Indeed some of them have already called for greater disclosure. EPA’s proposed scope of study is a good first step but it can and should go much further. This hydraulic fracturing study must be fully funded to allow an in-depth analysis of the data. We also need changes in federal and state regulations requiring this industry to protect our air, water, and communities.”

Fracking involves the high pressure injection of enormous amounts of water, sand and chemicals into drilling sites to force gas deposits to the surface. Estimates vary, but anywhere from 30% to 85% of fracking fluids remain underground and could potentially harm underground water resources.  Most wells are fracked several times over the life of the well. The EPA should also study threats to geological formations from drilling and fracking to identify ground fractures that have the potential to carry fracking fluids to domestic drinking water supplies.

“Oil and gas drilling is spreading across the American landscape with little regulation, putting our air, water and health at risk,” says Gwen Lachelt, Director of EARTHWORKS’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “This industry is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act and most other environmental laws. Hopefully this new EPA study will provide a scientifically reliable, independent analysis of the impacts of fracking.”

Improperly sealed drilling wells can also contaminate groundwater. The industry claims that less than 1 percent of fracking fluids are comprised of chemical agents but EARTHWORKS’ research shows that companies can use as much as 40 tons of chemicals for every million gallons of water used in fracking.  There are no requirements at the federal level to compel industry to disclose what chemicals it is injecting into the ground, although just this week the EPA announced that it is asking natural gas companies to voluntarily disclose this information.

The EPA proposes to study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and its potential drinking water pollution. The EPA’s Science Advisory Board — an independent, external federal advisory committee — recently recommended that EPA’s study look at the entire life cycle of fracturing operations.

Oil and gas is produced in 34 states from an estimated 800,000 wells, according to the Energy Information Agency. Under the 2005 Energy Policy Act, fracking is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Oil and gas producers are also exempted from part of the Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) governing hazardous waste, the federal Superfund law, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (which requires companies to report their toxic releases), and part of the Clean Air Act. These exemptions threaten the air, water and health of communities affected by natural gas.

The final public meetings on the proposed EPA study are September 13 and 15, 2010 in Binghamton, NY, in the heart of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation. For more information on these meetings, contact Roger Downs at roger.downs@sierraclub.org or Nadia Steinzor at nsteinzor@earthworksaction.org.

For more information visit


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