The fracking industry knows their biggest problem is disposal of the massive amounts of waste from fracking shale.
According to the American Petroleum Institute, 1.2 barrels of waste is produced for every foot that is drilled. A Barnett Shale well is between 8,000 and 12,000 feet then they can drill a mile (5,280′) or more horizontally. There are about 16000 wells in the Barnett Shale.
(10,000′ + 5,280′)1.2 * 16,000 = 293,376,000 barrels
The waste is toxic, contains chemicals used during the drilling process and metal drill bit pieces and can contain radioactive materials, heavy metals and other impurities from the formation.
How ‘Landfarms’ For Disposing Drilling Waste Are Causing Problems In Texas
NOVEMBER 12, 2012 | 6:45 AM
BY DAVE FEHLING
If you listen to the audio tape for this story, there is more information. “There were hundreds and hundreds of violations…” The Texas Railroad Commission knew there were serious problems but they did what they do best: ignored it for 6 years while the facility contaminated our water.
This is consistent with the findings of our research about the Texas Railroad Commission enforcement.
When we issued our findings, the Texas media gave Commissioner Barry Smitherman plenty of ink to dispute our findings. It’s a shame the media did not bother to check the accuracy of Smitherman’s statements. We did though and here are some highlights:
But Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, said enforcement is a high priority for him, dating back to his tenure at the Public Utility Commission and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, and issued a statement highlighting some of the agency’s accomplishments. The commission adopted new guidelines last month establishing higher penalties, he said.
The new guidelines will not necessarily result in higher penalties. The guidelines state that: “penalties listed in this section serve as guidelines to be considered by the Commission. . .the actual penalties recommended and assessed will be determined by the enforcement staff attorney, the examiners, and ultimately, the Commission.”
Still, they are an improvement – a baby step in the right direction. But the guidelines do not go far enough. A minimum $1,000 fine for polluting surface or ground water is not a strong signal to companies. Also, the guidelines do little to motivate companies who repeatedly violate rules. If a company has 1 previous violation in the past seven years, they may be fined an extra $1,000. If a company has five previous violations in the past seven years, they may be fined an extra $5,000. If a company has more than five, in other words is a seriously negligent operator, the extra fine is. . . $5,000.
” the agency said it assessed $1,965,019 in penalties for the year ended Aug. 31.”
What does this really mean? According to RRC data the average fine for minor and major violations in FY 2012 was $1,627. ($1,965,019 divided by 1,208 sent to enforcement = $1,627 avg. per violation). Is that level of a fine really “strong enforcement”?
“Most of the Earthworks report’s data was compiled in 2010, when the Railroad Commission had 88 field inspectors; that increased to 97 inspectors in 2011. Smitherman said the number grew to 153 oil and gas field inspectors by this year.”
According to an email query to RRC in April 2012, out of 153 RRC personnel with inspection responsibilities there were 97 full-time inspectors. The following is a quote from the email response:
“9 Lead Techs
97 Full-time inspectors
31 State Pluggers
15 District Office Cleanup Coordinators
153 total inspectors
The Techs, Pluggers and Cleanup Coordinators are all very important jobs and let’s hope they are still doing them. It’s dishonest to count Techs, Pluggers and Cleanup Coordinators as full-time inspectors. What if the Allen Police Department started counting all the administrative assistants as police officers? Same diff here. There are only 97 full-time inspectors.
There’s more, but I’ll stop here. It’s such a shame that our Railroad Commissioners use this kind of spin to fool the public. It’s bad enough that they turn their heads while our water gets contaminated.
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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kim Feil says
On the State Impact audio, I noticed they talked about Land Farming in the context of drilling “fluids”….I recall a conversation with a Kilgore guy where he said during a drought they beg for the liquids to hydrate their properties…..woah! So then what happens to the drilling “Mud”? Does it get to be “top kill” for plugging other wells? Or does it go to an injection well? Or does it get spread over the earth too? And I cannot grasp why in Texas that no Land Farming permit is needed is fluids R disposed on the same site as the drill site…disposed how/where/why?
The drilling mud goes to the landfarm and they also put some fluids on landfarms. Hell, we don’t really know what they are doing, nobody does. But under the landfarm category on this blog I have pictures of them shooting liquid waste out of a big irrigator.
Tim Ruggiero says
The TRRC has too numerous problems to count, everything from the misnomer of the agency name to the corrupt (if not not inept) Commissioners themselves. What Barry & Co enjoy the most is that not too many people care about the TRRC, understand what they do, or more importantly, what they don’t do, so there’s almost zero accountability. That’s why Industry Whores like Smitherman can campaign for re-election like he’s running for president, instead of his half-wit job that pretty much involves rubber stamping permits.
The RRC is the ULTIMATE LAPDOG org. It’s like it is because that’s what the industry wants it to be. If you, as a peasant, complain to the RRC, the RRC can and will do damage to you, the. For instance, the identity of complaints to the RRC are NOT kept confidential. The word “Railroad” is a proper part of it’s name–because it will run over you(a peasant) like a Chu-Chu train running 90 MPH.
Yep. They did the same to me. On one complaint, I asked to be anonymous and they agreed then revealed my identity.
You’re correct. Do not mess with ’em!
They are dangerous.
It is VERY important to call them and make complaints. Keep meticulous records so we can continue to document their failure.
Sure that’s good if you want to waste your time. I have called in complaints with “evidence” of pollution–then go un-announded to the records area at the RRC and found that the “complaint” was not there on file. The RRC does everything possible, including altering records, to insure that there is NO evidence of bad things done by O&G in Tx. Check it out yourself. Such pollution evidence is better brought to light by your excellent site here.