Even the Dallas Morning News Texas Energy and Environment blog, which is normally industry friendly, found Energy In Depth’s press release rude. I guess these questions are supposed to intimidate the mayor or something. Good luck with that.
UPDATE: The Mayor’s most excellent response is HERE
Note: Energy In Depth (EDI) is an umbrella industry group led by the Independent Petroleum Association of America IPAA.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:Chris@energyindepth.org]
Sent: Friday, February 12, 2010 2:26 PM
Subject: EID: Seven Questions for the Mayor of DISHSeven Questions for the Mayor of DISHIn advance of Mayor Tillman’s trip to New York next week, EID poses a series of questions residents should ask while he’s there
It’s not every day you’re likely to run into the mayor of a small town in Denton Co., Texas ambling about the Southern Tier of New York State. But next week, that’s precisely where you’ll find DISH mayor Calvin Tillman – slated to make the nearly 1,500-mile trip to the Empire State to rally local environmental activists against efforts to explore for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.
Mayor Tillman is absolutely not “against efforts to explore for natural gas” anywhere. This is typical industry spin to avoid conducting their business in a responsible manner. Mayor Tillman has made it abundantly clear that he supports responsible drilling.
Now, wait a second: Isn’t this the same Marcellus Shale that studies suggest could create 16,000 high-wage jobs in Broome Co., N. Y. alone — and generate $15.3 billion in local economic development? Yep, that’s the one.
Now wait a second: EID offers a false choice: jobs or clean air and water. People, we don’t have to choose, it is possible to have both.
No place knows about oil and gas industry jobs better than Texas but workers still need to drink safe water and breathe clean air. Responsible drilling will actually provide more jobs as inspections increase and technology is developed, manufactured and applied.
These measures have not slowed down drilling in Colorado or New Mexico. Oh sure, industry threatened to pick up their toys and all come to Texas where we have the most drilling and the worst regulation, but they never followed through on those threats and drilling hasn’t slowed down.
Turns out, though, that the mayor of DISH isn’t as sanguine on shale gas as you’d expect. And to help him punctuate his case, he’ll be bringing to New York a couple of recent “studies” on the subject aimed at scaring local residents into believing that natural gas exploration will ruin their air, sully their land, and poison their water. Should be quite the show.
Turns out that North Texas has a 25% asthma rate as compared to 7.1% statewide. No matter how much you spin, unregulated natural gas drilling does ruin air and water. It’s funny how, when oil and gas drilling comes to town, tiny places in the middle of nowhere like Boulder, Wyoming start having ozone alerts.
Of course, we can’t say for certain whether the mayor will mention to local residents that these studies have been almost universally panned by independent environmental engineers; that they were recently debunked by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) itself; or that the contractor who did the study for Mayor Tillman doesn’t have a licensed professional engineer on its
“Universally panned” is quite a stretch for one “opinion” with no testing and with a disclaimer at the end. And, if anything, the recent TCEQ study supports the Wolfe Eagle study. TCEQ found that about half of the 44 facilities included in the study had potentially hazardous levels of benzene. But benzene is not the only dangerous toxin found. If you actually read the 300+ page report, it reveals substantial neurotoxins, high levels of benzene around the Barnett Shale and proves that Barnett Shale “dry gas” is hazardous to human health. Additional studies by TCEQ reveal the high levels of NOx in the air around drilling activity.
And who knows? He may forget to mention his relationship with the Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP), an anti-energy group based in Colorado (but active in New York) which considers clean-burning natural gas a “filthy” form of energy. He may not find it relevant to mention that OGAP funded one of the studies he plans to show off – or that his town’s official government website links to OGAP’s page on the internet. Who can say for sure?
Who knew that OGAP is anti-energy or that OGAP funds studies? Neither is the truth. I supposed we could say that Energy In Depth and the Texas Pipeline Alliance is eager to poison us all. That may seem over-the-top considering that there would be no one left to buy their gas. Who can say for sure though? See, we can say anything but that doesn’t make it true.
Thankfully, on the off-chance the mayor forgets to mention any of these details to the audiences he plans to visit – or that reporters forget to ask – Energy In Depth has assembled the following list of questions that Mayor Tillman might like to answer during his stay in New York:
Thankfully, the Mayor won’t have any problem answering these silly questions. I wonder if reporters might like to ask the TPA a few of the dueling questions below.
1) Mr. Mayor, your assertion that local natural gas exploration activities have adversely impacted the air quality of your town appears to be entirely founded on a study you commissioned by a group called Wolf Eagle Environmental. Are you aware that TCEQ conducted an internal review of this study and found that “it is not possible” to draw the types of conclusions that appear in that report?
Are you kidding? Are you aware that people are NOT stupid and that we can actually read the document and see exactly what it says?
…the TD [TCEQ Toxicology Department] is concerned that the monitored concentrations of benzene at several of the sampling locations could pose a long-term health risk to residents in the area if the concentrations are representative of normal ambient conditions… The TD strongly recommends additional air sampling in the area.
The “not possible” part is only in reference to whether or not residents were exposed and to what extent they were exposed to the FACT of the high levels found.
2) Mr. Mayor, are you aware that Wolf Eagle Environmental was formerly known as Wolf Eagle Environmental Engineers & Consultants – but was forced to change its name upon it becoming public that the organization did not (and, in fact, still does not) employ an actual licensed professional engineer on staff?
I have seen the CV of the principal of Wolf Eagle. Are you aware that she has more experience and credentials than most of the people at TCEQ including the engineers? Are you aware that ad hominem attacks are a fallacy in logic and expose your inability to argue your point on the merit of facts alone?
3) Mr. Mayor, is it true that once the Wolf Eagle evaluation was debunked, you accepted an offer from the national Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) to fund a second study of a similar type? Is it true that OGAP links are found on your town website? Are you aware that OGAP considers clean-burning natural gas a “filthy” energy source, and was in fact established as a means to fight natural gas exploration wherever, whenever and however it takes place?
Nice spin but we’ve already debunked your claim that the Wolf Eagle study was debunked. In fact the Wolf Eagle findings were supported by the TCEQ evaluation and further supported by SMU testing.
OGAP did not fund any study. MacArthur genius award recipient, Wilma Subra, conducted a health survey in DISH, TX and presented the results to the DISH Town Board and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Apparently TCEQ took that health survey seriously because they have established a new same-day response policy to odor complaints from oil and gas facilities.
Subra volunteered her time so there was no funding involved.
OGAP is a project of EARTHWORKS, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the destructive impacts of mineral development, in the U.S. and worldwide.
OGAP promotes Doing-it-Right by the use of Best Practices in oil and gas development to protect our natural resources and communities.
Often, communities or landowners are not opposed to drilling – they simply want to ensure that it is done in a way that minimizes impacts to the environment and their lives.
The oil and gas industry has the financial and technological ability to “Do it Right.” In some situations, companies will use better practices because it makes economic sense to do so. In other cases, however, industry is forced to innovate because they are pushed to do so by government regulations (e.g., new regulations may limit the allowable amount of air emissions).
4) Mr. Mayor, have you had the chance to take a look at TCEQ’s recent air quality study of the areas in and around the Barnett Shale? If so, did you note that of the 94 sites tested by TCEQ, 92 registered short-term effects screening levels (ESL) well below anything that would cause “alarm,” according to TCEQ’s toxicology director? Are you also aware that repairs at the remaining two sites tested by TCEQ have already been completed and certified by the agency?
The TCEQ tested at 44 facilities and found about half had potentially hazardous levels of benzene. At the 44 facilities, which you can liken to an address, they tested at 94 sites. I’m sure EID/IPAA is aware that production during the testing was substantially lower than normal. In some cases production was 60% lower than during the preceding 12 months.
The fact is the TCEQ study showed that benzene levels exceeded the recommended safe levels.
From the TCEQ press release: “Although the results are complex, it is clear that gas production facilities can, and in some cases do, emit contaminants in amounts that could be deemed unsafe,” the agency said in a news release.
5) Mr. Mayor, you testified on numerous occasions that energy operators in your area are responsible for the emission of benzene and other potential contaminants into the air. But did you know that the mere act of filling up your tank with a conventional gas pump (one without a vapor recovery device) could expose you to benzene levels of 11,000 parts per billion (ppb), according to TCEQ — without any ambient air to dilute it? Are you aware that not even the Wolf Eagle study was able to find a single site in your area exceeding 78 ppb?
Seriously? Are you suggesting 78 ppb as a new benchmark for benzene levels? Are you aware that 78 ppb is close to 400 times the average background level of .2ppb. Who on earth wants to live around benzene at 78 ppb? I don’t think that one is going to fly.
Your analogy proves that there is no need for all the benzene emitted by oil and gas facilities. All they need are some vapor recovery devices like gas stations have and we can cut down on the benzene in our air dramatically. Thank you!
6) Mr. Mayor, are you aware that according to EPA, “oil and natural gas production contributes only 2% of the total benzene emissions in the U.S., and shale gas represents a very small subset of this 2%”?
7) Mr. Mayor, did you know that energy exploration is responsible for directly employing more than 200,000 people in your state? Accounts for the payment of more than $44 million in royalties and rents to landowners every year? And sends more than $4 billion each year to your treasury, representing nearly seven percent of your entire budget? Here in Upstate New York, we aren’t trying to be the next Texas – but can you understand how the availability of even a fraction of these new resources could help revive and strengthen our economy?
Again, EDI/IPPA offers a false choice: jobs or cancer. Let’s see, which should we pick?
UPDATE: And about all those jobs: I drive by drilling activity every single day and I see a whole lot of workers who do not speak even one word of English. I’ve tried talking to them. I have no problem with people who speak other languages or with people who are supposedly “illegal.” However, when a large number of your workers are obviously not American citizens, it weakens your whole “jobs, jobs, jobs” argument.
I can’t see how all that money is helping ordinary Texans much. The City of Fort Worth is broke. Texas has just announced major funding cuts. Where is all that money going? We’re sure going to need some of it to take care of all the sick people unless we get some better drilling regulations.
With that, we welcome the mayor to the Empire State – the only place in the world that can lay claim to (among so many other things) two Ivy League universities, Woody Allen, and the first-ever commercial gas well (Fredonia, 1829). Our hope is that he thoroughly enjoys his stay. And our expectation is that he’s ready, willing and able to render honest answers to the legitimate questions posed above.
Oops! Lookie: One of those “Ivy League universities” outed you, Columbia University did a study that exposes many of the environmental problems associated with natural gas drilling. Oops!
…natural gas extraction has significant impacts on the environment and potential impacts on the local and downstream water supplies. Gas well sites require about five acres of farm or forest land cleared and dedicated to drilling operations, considerably altering the landscape. Drill sites result in increased truck and construction traffic on local roads, thereby adding to the stress on infrastructure across the region. Drilling operations and related vehicle traffic result in significant increases in air, noise and light pollution, particularly for formerly remote, rural areas. Further, the process of hydraulic fracturing results in large volumes of wastewater, of which about a third is contaminated and requires specialized treatment. Local citizens and downstream inhabitants are concerned that improper handling of wastewater could result in the contamination of regional water supplies.
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A few former Big Gas Bullies DISH posts:
UPDATE: This picture shows the Jonah Field in CO as mentioned in the comments below.