Senator Davis response to Mel LeBlanc’s “guest editorial” in the BSEEC newsletter:
For the benefit of your readers, I am writing to correct a number of falsehoods in the June 28 guest editorial by Arlington Councilmember Mel LeBlanc. His misstatements include the following:
1. I have never called for a moratorium on gas drilling. In fact, I support responsible drilling and have said so repeatedly.
2. I did not “request the rejection of a drilling case” in Arlington. A letter to Mayor Cluck asked for a two- to three-week delay on the matter while TCEQ completed air quality tests in the area.
3. TCEQ’s release of Fort Worth air quality testing data was not “alleged mishandling.” TCEQ’s Executive Director Mark Vickery admitted that the agency should have done a better job of keeping the general public informed. TCEQ had previously advised that the air quality in the Fort Worth portions of the Barnett Shale was safe. Subsequently, it was discovered that internal information revealed elevated levels of benzene. Here is the timeline:
- TCEQ tested air samples in Fort Worth on Dec. 15-17, 2009.
- On Jan. 12, 2010, TCEQ’s John Sadlier told the Fort Worth City Council in a public meeting that “based on this study, the air is safe.”
- On Jan. 13, TCEQ sent the December test samples to its lab and on Jan. 22 those lab tests revealed that the field testing from the December samples did show elevated levels of benzene, which differed from the results presented on Jan. 12 to the public (http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/assets/public/implementation/barnett_shale/healthEffects/2010.04.26-healthEffectsMemo.pdf).
- On Feb. 3, an internal fraud complaint was filed suggesting TCEQ’s “information given to upper management and subsequently presented to the public was inaccurate and misleading” (http://www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/agency-of-destruction/item/download/63).
- I met with high-level staff (including once with a TCEQ commissioner) in January, February and March 2010 to discuss my constituents’ concerns about their health and safety, to encourage the agency to gather an inventory of gas equipment in the Barnett Shale, and to discuss additional air monitoring in the region. I issued a press release on March 12 detailing progress on these issues (http://www.davis.senate.state.tx.us/pr10/p031210a.pdf).
- On May 13, I met with members of the gas industry to discuss public policy issues related to drilling, affirming that I support responsible gas drilling.
- On May 26, Forrest Wilder, a journalist with the Texas Observer, broke the story of the fraud complaint filed with the TCEQ by a concerned individual, bringing to light that inaccurate test results were represented to the Fort Worth City Council on Jan. 12 (http://www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/agency-of-destruction). After the story broke, Mark Vickery, the TCEQ’s Executive Director, called me on May 26 to inform me, for the first time, of the same.
- Even though TCEQ became aware of data that made their initial statement to the Fort Worth City Council inaccurate, the agency failed to correct their earlier inaccurate statement – both to the public and me – for four months.
4. Anthony Spangler, a member of my Senate staff, did not introduce himself at a recent TCEQ air quality meeting as my Chief of Staff; rather, he introduced himself as the Communications Director for my office. (See the video starting at the 4:52 mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKKsfhS7uL8.)
5. Mr. Spangler did not “ignore public manners” by speaking for 8 minutes. A recording of the hearing provided by TCEQ and available on YouTube, shows that the remarks he gave – on behalf of a district encompassing more than 700,000 people – lasted 3:52 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKKsfhS7uL8).
6. My statement at this hearing did not call for the establishment of an “Oil & Gas fund” or any fund whatsoever (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKKsfhS7uL8).
Natural gas production is vital to our economic, environmental, and national security interests. As drilling is conducted in close proximity to people, care must be taken to preserve our community’s quality of life, health and safety. This has been my stated position in the past, and it remains my position today.
Councilmember LeBlanc knows this, as I spoke at length with him about these issues during a private meeting I held with him at my district office on April 14. I’m not sure why Councilmember LeBlanc wanted to distort my record, but I wanted to take this opportunity to set the record straight.
State Senator Wendy Davis represents District 10 in Tarrant County.