The Barnett Shale Drilling Disaster – SJ Environmental Justice

First of all, let me begin by clarifying what The Barnett Shale is. The Barnett Shale is a geological formation consisting in sedimentary rocks that underlie under the Dallas- Ft Worth Metroplex. 5.000 miles long portion of rocks sitting under 17 counties. The productive portion of the shale is under Johnson, Tarrant, and Dallas counties. It’s considered as being the largest producible reserve of natural gas found on shores of the United States. Also, oil has been found here but in smaller quantities.

Because gas was hard to extract so it can be produced in commercial quantities the gas and oil companies use hydraulic fracking; The hydraulic fracturing is a technique that fractures the rocks with pressurized liquid.


The high-pressure injection of the hydraulic liquid ( a mix of water, sand, and thickening agents) produces breaks in the rock formation. The gas, petroleum, and sodium chloride ( salty water) will flow freely through these cracks. The hydraulic fracturing was introduced in 1947 and used by millions of oil and gas wells.The hydraulic fracking is a controversial subject. In many countries, the fracking was already banned but the advocate of it sustain that the economical gain received from the approachable hydrocarbons are an critical factor for not to be banned in the United States. The potential environmental impact can’t be ignored either. The risk of water and ground contamination, air pollution, noise pollution, public health problems, and earthquakes are growing problems associated with fracking.

A major part of the formation is under the urban area of Dallas- Ft Worth. Ideas like drilling in the public parks, so the local governments may obtain royalties if any minerals are found, or seeking compensations for the damage roads caused by overweight trucks from the local trucking companies, are discussed frequently. Most of the roads in the area are not designed to sustain the high traffic of the heavy duty equipment, and they are destroyed, so the local government is seeking for compensation from the drilling companies.


From 2002 to 2010 the Barnett Shale was the most productive shale in the U.S. In 2010 there were 14.000 wells in the Barnett Shale and 3.000 more got new permits in the same year. In January 2013, the Barnett Shale produced over 4 billion cubic feet of gas each day which represented almost 7 % of all the natural gas produced in the United States. The first company drilling wells in the Barnette area was Mitchel Energy in 1981, but the first successful and cost effective drill was made in 1998. After 1998 competitors realized that, the gas can be extracted profitably, so they started buying leases. By 2008, the landowners that had wells on their land were paid bonuses between $500 and $69.000/ ha

The cleanup costs of the toxic byproducts of drilling may not be worth the tax revenue and the environmental effects of the contaminated drinking water, air pollution from natural gas compression.

The question on the mind of the people that are getting sick every day and the one that live with the fear of another earthquake every day is if it’s worth it? The state of Texas claims that the law banning the fracturing in the area will destroy jobs and claim they found no reason of concern. But people are fighting with unexpected rashes, pneumonia, sharp headaches, sinus infections that won’t heal, or other autoimmune disease are all triggered by the exposure to natural gas.

New information related with the risk of living in the proximity of a well surface out every year. Measurements taken found spikes in the number of toxins such as benzene which can cause leukemia and congenital heart defects in newborns.

The Barnett shale region is considered the largest running experiment about what it means for people when the land they are living on is flooded with wells and heavy equipment. The wells are tucked near schools, homes, parks, hospitals, many times less than 200 feet away. 6.000 sources of toxic emission from the wells and heavy equipment are cramped in the metropolitan area of Dallas- Ft Worth.

In 2009, over 1300 people filed complaints about the air quality. Only 2% of this complaints were followed up with violation notice, 94% were closed without any violation, and the rest of the 2% were referred to other agencies.
The primary agency who should control the situation and keep an eye on the air quality and make sure that the oil and gas industry respects the rules, the TXEQ, doesn’t cares about the health of the public. In 2007, they raised the amount of benzene considered to be acceptable level of exposure, doubled it, when the World Health Organization guidelines explicitly say that no level of exposure to benzene is recommended.

In 2009 agency employees discover that the benzene level was over the already released level in a third of the sites were testing was made.The only measure taken was prompting those sites to repairs.

Concerns were raised about this problem, but the answer received from TCEQ was not surprising. They considered that “the emission from natural gas operation in the area haven’t significantly affected the ambient level of air toxins like benzene.” An employ of TCEQ filed an internal fraud complaint. The quality ensurance manager said that TCEQ after following up with a public complaint with a more sensitive equipment found the level on benzene above the agency guidelines but didn’t let the city know about it, trying to hide the problem.

Scientist study chemicals one at the time, they do not study them as a mix of chemicals like those near the shale. The benzene itself is cancerogenic. Butadiene, another toxic cancerigene linked to leukemia, Tohien causes dizziness and headache; xylenes causes respiratory and cardiovascular problems. There are many more on the long list of toxic chemicals found at the Barnette Shale of which effect it’s not even known.

Fracking leaves a path of polluted water, poisoned air, destroyed landscape. It is an environmental and public health catastrophe in making. It comes with substantial price paid starting with cleaning up the polluted water to reconstruction of the damaged roads. These expenses are not covered by the drilling industry; they will come out of public money. The oil and gas industry needs to be held responsible for damages they are causing to people’s health and to the environment.

To clean up drinking water pollution is expensive so it’s not even attempted. Temporary replacement water supplies or increasing water treatment systems are other additional costs that can add up to millions of dollars.

Health problems associated to fracking, due to air contamination from trucks, equipment and wells are also an important factor to consider. The NIOSH warned the workers that they could have an enormous risk of developing the lung disease silicosis caused by inhalation of silica dust at fracking sites. Fracking is also a contributor to the ozone smog and global warming.

The costs of fracking are hitting hard on the health care system. In 2007, $50 million were spent for medical cost due to increasing number of silicosis. We are loosing inestimable natural sources by turning forests and farm in industrial zones occupied by well pads. Killing the habitat of wild animals in the areas where wells pop up will result in a decrease of the animal population.

The taxpayers pay the costs for repairing the damages roads. The state of Texas approved $40 million in funding only for road repairs in the Barnette shale region. The damage caused to the roads by the trucks that deliver water for only 1 well causes so much damage on the road as it would over 3 million car trips on the same road. Another severe and costly problem are the abandoned wells. There are thousands of them from the past fossil fuel boom. Expenses with recapping the abandoned wells will be covered most probably with the taxpayers money. The fracking is affecting the sale price of the nearby homes. Houses that had a previous value around $250.000 sell with up to 15% less after wells pup up within 1.000 miles of it



  • April 2016
  • December 2015
  • November 2015

General Select Category General August 2016

« Apr    
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31