Saturday, March 03, 2007

Water: State & National Legislators Pay Attention


Please continue to write, call, and fax members of the Natural Resources Committee because our efforts are working.

It is reported that Senator Criag Estes (R) who is Vice Chair of the Natural Resources Committee is feeling the heat from the fire we are lighting under him:
A bill is being drafted to require businesses that are exempt from Groundwater Conservation District rules, including oil and gas, agriculture and livestock, to report their water usage, according to Toby Baker, Clerk for Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. This would be the first step toward removing the exemption if statistics prove necessary during a future legislative session.

Since Senator Estes, earned a grade of F on his Legislative Report Card because most of his campaign contributions came from big corporations, especially Big Oil, this is not the time to let up pressure.

If you have already written, then please call and, after that, send a fax. Write all of the committee members. You can send all the letters in the same envelope to the committee clerk, Teddy Carter, and he will be sure that each member gets their letter. Your letters do make a difference but since this is a numbers game we need ALL of you and your friends and relatives to send letters.

Make your letters outweigh the campaign contributions from Big Oil. Help Senator Estes remember that a thousand dollar bill does not have a voter registration card.



Edwards Co-Authors Bill To Help Recycle Water in Barnett Shale Operations

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards announced that he has co-authored a bill, H.R.902, The More Water and More Energy Act, that will spur research and development of ways that water from natural gas and oil production could be used for agricultural purposes and to reduce water costs for business. “Finding ways to filter and reuse water used in drilling of natural gas wells will help preserve long term water supply for North Central Texas families and businesses while allowing natural gas operations to continue,” said Rep. Edwards, the second ranking Democrat on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

H.R. 902 directs the Interior Secretary to carry out a study to identify the obstacles to increasing the ways in which produced water can be used. It authorizes $5 million in federal grants to assist in developing four pilot plants to demonstrate the feasibility, effectiveness and safety of processes in which produced water can be recovered and made suitable for use. Edwards worked with the author of the bill, U.S. Rep. Mark Udall of Colorado, to add language to include Texas specifically so that industry working in the Barnett Shale could apply for the grants. As a result, one of the pilot plants would be built in Texas, another in Colorado, one would be in Arizona or Nevada and the other would be built in California.

“Natural gas production has been an economic boon for many areas in North Central Texas, including Johnson County,” said Johnson County Commissioner RC McFall. “At the same time, our water supply is precious and we have to look for new ways to conserve water in order to support our growing population. I have spoken personally with Congressman Edwards about this issue, and I thank him for taking a leadership role in looking for ways to protect the water supply for families in this area.”

Officials from the oil and gas industry support Edwards’ bill. Bill Whitsitt of the Domestic Petroleum Council, a national trade association representing 24 of the largest United States independent natural gas and crude oil exploration and production companies, supports the bill and said, “Beneficial use of water in these environments should be a win-win for the energy industry and water consumers, but the costs of water treatment and inconsistent water quality regulations among states make that process extremely difficult. The ability to carry out meaningful projects with real potential benefits will be crucial.”

Produced water is the water generated during oil and gas production. The U.S. generates over five million gallons of produced water per day. While this water can be and is used for agricultural purposes, most often it is handled as a waste and reinjected. Given the increasing demand for fresh water supplies in the Barnett Shale and throughout Texas and the American West, Edwards said it makes sense to consider how recycled water could supplement our water resources.

“Conserving our water resources and reducing demand on the water supply will prove vital in the years ahead, as population growth increases demand for available water resources,” said Edwards. “By being good stewards of our water supply, we will not only help protect the availability of fresh water for families in North Central Texas, we can reduce water costs for businesses, save Texas taxpayers millions of dollars and encourage economic growth in our area.”

Edwards represents District 17 and is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Oil and gas exemptions should be eliminated

Tomorrow morning, when you get up, do not turn on the water to make your coffee. Do not brush your teeth or shave. Do not wash your face or shower. Do not wash your clothes, your dishes, or your car. Do not water your plants, your lawn, your crops, or your animals. Do not turn on your water at all.

One may ask why I would suggest doing such a bizarre thing and my answer is that you might need the practice.

Many Texas Counties are facing two critical issues regarding water: contamination and depletion.

As county commissioners work toward establishing the greatly needed Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCD), some important issues about what a GCD can and cannot do for residents desperately need clarification.

A GCD has no control over the main offender in the usage and contamination of our water because the main offender, the oil and gas industry, is exempt from any local control. A GCD has no jurisdiction and no effect over water usage and contamination by the oil and gas industry. That is why it is crucial that we demand repeal of the exemption so that we all play by the same rules.

Contamination: Injection wells are located in counties throughout the Barnett Shale area and anywhere else where fracing ocurrs. In Wise County, we have 27 commercial injection wells and approximately 200 private injection wells that drilling companies use to pump hazardous waste into the ground. This hazardous waste includes but is not limited to the following:

• fumaric acid
• tolulene
• hydrochloric acid
• ethylene glycol (antifreeze)
• aromatic hydrocarbons
• methanol
• benzene (highly carcinogenic)
• salt is the main offending ingredient and renders the water unusable

The only chemicals not allowed in injection wells are high levels of radioactive materials, medical waste, and high levels of PCBs. Please note the use of the modifier, high levels. Who determines what a high level is? Who monitors these wells to guarantee that they are operated according to regulation? Unbelievably, the wells are self-monitored by the Oil and Gas Industry! In addition, the EPA does not regulate the chemicals that are injected by the oil and gas industry into or near our underground water supply.

Drilling in the Barnett Shale area is expected to increase dramatically in the future. The increased drilling significantly elevates the probability of water contamination. A GCD will monitor our water for contamination. However, the GCD also becomes responsible for any contamination, which translates into taxpayers paying for the results of that contamination. Since the Oil and Gas Industry is self-monitored or essentially unmonitored, there is no way to prove responsibility. Just ask residents of Panola County or other areas where water contamination by drilling has occurred how they manage having all their water brought in from outside sources. Or ask about the deaths and illnesses due to water contamination.

Lifting the exemptions on Oil and Gas would allow monitoring and local control, which would create more jobs for county residents and decrease the probability of contamination of our ground water.

Depletion: Barnett Shale wells require fracturing of the limestone formation to release the oil and gas trapped within. Water, sand, and hazardous chemicals are injected under high pressure down the drilling hole to fracture the limestone. Each fracing uses between 1.5 and 6 million gallons of fresh water. According to Halliburton at the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council, each well is fraced an average of 17 times.

During a 17-month period from June 2004 to November 2005, the Railroad Commission issued 421 drilling permits in Wise County. Not every permit resulted in a well. Since water usage by the Oil and Gas Industry is not monitored, we cannot accurately determine how much Wise County water is used for drilling. However, using the 421 permits issued figure, we can create estimated, hypothetical best-case and worst-case scenarios. The best-case: 421 wells fraced 17 times each using 1.5 million gallons of water is almost 11 billion gallons of water. The worst-case: 421 wells fraced 17 times each using 6 million gallons of water is almost 43 billion gallons of water.

After fracing, the water containing hazardous chemicals is pumped into injection wells. Technology exists to clean up and reuse the frac water but currently no drilling company is routinely using that technology.

A GCD will monitor our ground water levels, alert the public when the level is low and enforce water rationing as needed. Water rationing is necessary to preserve our most precious resource. However, the Oil and Gas industry is exempt from any local rationing enforcement.

Lifting the exemptions on Oil and Gas would allow monitoring and local control of water usage by the Oil and Gas Industry. This will require more labor and will create more jobs for Wise County residents.

Plainly put, county residents will pay for any water contamination and suffer water rationing while the main offender, the Oil and Gas Industry, continues using billions of gallons of water and then pumping the contaminated remains into the ground and all the while making record-breaking profits. The industry can easily afford to play by the same rules that residents do.

Texas residents are a diverse mixture of ethnicities and political viewpoints but there is one thing we all have in common: One hundred percent of us drink water. Promoting a GCD as a panacea for water issues is misinformed and misleading. A GCD is a good and necessary start but we need to demand repeal of Oil and Gas exemptions before a GCD can fully protect our water.

The Wise County Active Democrats are ready to unite Texans to lobby for the repeal of Oil and Gas exemptions. Get involved by visiting

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