Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil & Bad Air on the Texas Prairie | InsideClimate News

Editor’s Note: This Inside Climate News piece is some of the best journalism we have seen in years.  It’s a real case study in Laissez Faire Republican governance and why society can’t rely on the market to police itself as conservatives and libertarians would have us believe.  This is a story of market failure, legalized corruption, and the dangers of small government.  We highly recommend taking the time to read the full report by clicking on the below link, and have included the Summary Findings below:

Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil & Bad Air on the Texas Prairie | InsideClimate News.

Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale:

Big Oil and Bad Air on the Texas Prairie

An eight-month investigation

by InsideClimate News, the Center for Public Integrity and The Weather Channel

Our investigation and records obtained from Texas regulatory agencies reveal a system that does more to protect the industry than the public. Among the major findings: 

  • Texas’ air monitoring system is so flawed that the state knows almost nothing about the extent of the pollution in the Eagle Ford. Only five permanent air monitors are installed in the 20,000-square-mile region, and all are at the fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest.

  • Thousands of oil and gas facilities, including six of the nine production sites near the Buehrings’ house, are allowed to self-audit their emissions without reporting them to the state. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which regulates most air emissions, doesn’t even know some of these facilities exist. An internal agency document acknowledges that the rule allowing this practice “[c]annot be proven to be protective.”

  • Companies that break the law are rarely fined. Of the 284 oil and gas industry-related complaints filed with the TCEQ by Eagle Ford residents between Jan. 1, 2010, and Nov. 19, 2013, only two resulted in fines despite 164 documented violations. The largest was just $14,250. (Pending enforcement actions could lead to six more fines).

  • The Texas legislature has cut the TCEQ’s budget by a third since the Eagle Ford boom began, from $555 million in 2008 to $372 million in 2014. At the same time, the amount allocated for air monitoring equipment dropped from $1.2 million to $579,000.

  • The Eagle Ford boom is feeding an ominous trend: A 100 percent statewide increase in unplanned, toxic air releases associated with oil and gas production since 2009. Known as emission events, these releases are usually caused by human error or faulty equipment.

  • Residents of the mostly rural Eagle Ford counties are at a disadvantage even in Texas, because they haven’t been given air quality protections, such as more permanent monitors, provided to the wealthier, more suburban Barnett Shale region near Dallas-Fort Worth.

PROJECT PAGE: Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil and Bad Air on the Texas Prairie


About Cyrus

Cyrus Tashakkori is Vice President at Pioneer Green Energy, a wind and solar power developer based in Austin, TX. He has an MBA and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Texas in Austin and a Bachelor's in Science & Economics from the University of North Carolina, Asheville.
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