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.
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.