The air quality committee chose Eastern Research Group to test air around gas well facilities. If the testing shows emissions are harmful to human health, the City Council will adopt new drilling regulations. By the time this happens, most of Ft. Worth will already be drilled up or have permits pending.
The council appointed the group in February after state officials gave conflicting reports about the level of toxic fumes released from gas sites.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality knew as early as 2007 about emissions coming from gas sites in the Barnett Shale. A helicopter equipped with an infrared camera spotted plumes of hydrocarbons during a flyover in North Texas. The camera, manufactured by FLIR Systems, can detect even low levels of fumes coming from the valves, tanks, pipes and compressor motors at gas sites. However, further testing is needed to determine what’s being released and how much.
The state environmental agency didn’t conduct follow-up tests until 2009 and didn’t test inside Fort Worth until December. Agency officials initially told city officials that the December tests showed no problems at sites in the city.