At first, no one in Texas thought fracking was a bad idea. Only after directly experiencing fracking impacts, did minds change.
NATO Parliamentary Assembly learns about fracking impacts.
In 2013, Deborah Lawrence and I were invited to give presentations to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Austin, Texas. The delegation was shocked by the information we presented. Previously, they had only heard from industry about how wonderful fracking is and how much money everyone is going to make.
I don’t have a copy of Deborah’s presentation but it was similar to FRACONOMICS: Why the Shale Business Model is Not Working.
My presentation was about fracking impacts from a grassroots perspective. In other words: Direct experience of people who live with fracking impacts.
Bob, Lisa and Emma Parr:
Slide 3 – before fracking impacts: Bob, Lisa and Emma Parr on their wedding day on the 40 acres where Bob built a beautiful custom home.
Slide 4 – fracking impacts: What the Parr’s life became shortly after the wedding.
- They were surrounded by 21 gas wells.
- Lisa’s health began to deteriorate, but 8 doctors found nothing medically wrong.
- Breathing difficulties
- Angry red rashes that covered her entire body and left her scarred with pock-marks.
- She had biopsies of the oozing welts on her scalp and the 4 ping-pong-ball-sized lumps on her neck.
- She found an environmental doctor whose testing showed drilling chemicals in Lisa’s blood and lungs that match chemicals detected by the state agency in air testing outside her home.
- Bob and Emma also suffered health effects.
- They had frequent nosebleeds, that were sometimes simultaneous.
- Emma was diagnosed with asthma.
- Bob experienced loss of balance & neurological problems.
- After receiving Lisa’s test results, her doctor advised them to leave their home within 48 hours.
- When they moved to Bob’s office, their health improved.
- In 2014, a jury found fracking guilty and awarded the Parrs $3 million for the fracking impacts they suffered.
Slide 5 – before fracking impacts: This is Christine Ruggiero and her thoroughbred mare Sweetheart
Tim & Christine wanted to raise their daughter Reilly in the country so she would have clean air and be surrounded by animals.
Slide 6 – after fracking impacts: Their dream turned into a nightmare.
- With no prior notice a drilling company cut their fence and began bulldozing their property to build a pad site for two wells.
- There were several spills.
- Methane started bubbling up in their pasture & the bubbles would ignite.
- There were constant emissions, releases and odor events.
- State & private environmental testing showed toxins in their air, including benzene at 120 ppb, and contamination in their pasture.
- Baseline water testing showed their water was clean and safe. Testing after fracking, showed their water was contaminated with high levels of MTBE an additive used in diesel fuel. A Congressional investigation found that nationally 32 million gallons of diesel was used in fracking fluid from 2005 to 2009. Half of that, 16 million gallons—was used in Texas.
- Ten year old Reilly Ruggiero was diagnosed with asthma.
- Christine suffered with rashes, nausea and memory loss.
- Tim had loss of sensation in his extremities.
- In September 2010, the Wise County Appraisal Board devalued their property 75%.
Slide 7 – aerial view of fracking impacts: This aerial photo of the Ruggiero’s property shows how close this facility is to their house and how much of their 10 acres was taken.
Slide 8 – fracking impacts in tiny town: Dish, Texas is a tiny town right in the epicenter of the Barnett Shale.
- Testing by a private environmental consultant found 16 chemicals in the ambient air above the state’s screening levels.
- A health survey of Dish residents revealed that 61% of residents’ health effects match effects associated with chemicals detected in air.
- Because his young sons were waking up at night covered in blood from nosebleeds the mayor, Calvin Tillman, resigned and moved his family out of harms way. Since moving to an area with no drilling in March 2011, his sons have not had one nosebleed and his oldest son no longer requires breathing treatments.
Slide 9 – fracking impacts in Argyle, Texas: Before drilling was well advanced in their area, the affluent communities of Argyle and Bartonville, Texas did extensive baseline testing.
- Baseline testing showed only 7 of the 84 contaminants typically tested for by the state.
- Follow up testing on the lot where the high school band practices detected 65 of the 84 contaminants.
- I have found no scientist or doctor who can answer this question: What is the increased risk when children go from breathing 7 contaminants to breathing a cocktail of 65 contaminants.
- Residents report a wide range of health effects including abnormal menstrual bleeding and nosebleeds, rashes, chest pains and difficulty breathing, asthma attacks and a likely COPD diagnosis in a forty-year-old non-smoker, difficulty concentrating and overwhelming fatigue.
- A blowdown is an allowed emission event that purges or empties the system of all the contents including methane, VOC’s and chemicals.
- At one Argyle, Facility a state issued permit estimated the facility would have 144 blowdowns a year.
In 2011, there were 501 blowdowns, or about 1.4 on average each day. This facility exceeded their permit on February 3, 2011! The state took no action but the EPA issued a violation of the clean air act.
- Families frequently had to wake their children at night to evacuate.
- The residence closest to this Facility was valued at $361,000 on the 2009 tax rolls and was valued at $95,000 on the 2010 tax rolls.
Slide 10 – fracking impacts in the Eagle Ford Shale: Eagle Ford Shale is experiencing all the same impacts plus a host of boom related impacts.
- One family I’m working with is surrounded by shale oil & gas facilities of all kinds. All three family members have been prescribed breathing inhalers in the past year.
- All the facilities near them are venting and leaking as observed with an infrared camera in recent sampling of the area around their home.
- During just one such release, the operator admitted releasing 42 pounds of benzene and very high levels of many other contaminants into the air around their home.
- Our report on this family’s impacts and the results from our sampling is HERE.
- In some areas longtime residents have been pushed out by rent that has risen as much as $1800 to $2000/month.
- Rent in Live Oak County has increased 275%.
- Seniors citizens are struggling with higher housing and services costs.
- Health care administrative staff is going to work in the oil field.
- Schools are struggling to deal with larger, sometimes transient student populations, more students from single parent homes and more homeless students.
- Food banks are swamped with more requests for help.
- Diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity is increasing dramatically.
- They are struggling with a big spike in sexually transmitted diseases.
- “Desperate” need for more mental health professionals to treat depression.
Slide 11 – The rush to drill for unconventional shale gas and oil has the cart before the horse.
- The reports of health impacts are significant and consistent across all shale plays.
- Earthworks has collected decades of anecdotal health impacts from across the nation and in Canada including the largest-ever survey of Marcellus Shale residents living near gas facilities. This survey included environmental testing of the residents’ area. The results show:
- Chemicals associated with oil and gas development are present in communities where development occurs.
- Residents in these communities report that after gas development began, they developed new health problems—many of which are known consequences of exposure to these chemicals.
- There are neither epidemiologic studies nor any systematic registry to track these complaints.
- Loopholes in our Federal environmental laws mean pollution goes unaccounted for.
- In other words, we don’t know what it would take to drill and frack safely without harming health and the environment or if that is even possible.
Slide 12 – Proof of fracking impacts is caught in a Cycle of Denial:
Slide 13 – What the grassroots knows about fracking impacts:
- The impacts are not few and not isolated.
- People all across the country are reporting the same health impacts.
- The commonality is unconventional oil and gas development nearby. And frankly it is insulting when industry and our government dispute this.
- Opposition increases exponentially as development expands.
- Security—economic or national—is not gained by sacrificing the health and long term well being of families. And that’s not what democracies are supposed to do.
- States are failing to protect the public.
- Scientific proof that fracking is safe does not exist. And placing the burden of proof on the public is not fair.
- There are no mythical economic benefits that outweigh clean air and water and healthy communities.
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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