Sunday, June 12, 2011

Eagle Ford Shale... The Perfect Storm

I was part of a "town hall" type meeting yesterday with residents of DeWitt County (Cuero, TX).  The effects of the Eagle Ford Shale gas boom have been surfacing in the area.  I was not surprised by all the fracking truck traffic I encountered on my drive from San Antonio, out highway 87 south, to the little town.  I was glad to see a great showing of residents, many of whom were older folks (landowners and ranch owners).  At their core, they are just like most Americans: trying to survive in a difficult economy.  But they are also trying to survive other things.  There is a severe drought occurring in Texas right now which may eventually be referred to as "the worst on record."  There is also a natural gas boom happening at their back door.   I think the residents in Eagle Ford Shale are in the "perfect storm." Few at the meeting, if any, had heard about the dangers associated with natural gas fracking.  None had seen "Gasland." And all truly believed that the Texas Railroad Commission, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the EPA were agencies whose sole purpose was to protect them.  They also mistakenly believed there were laws and legislation in place to protect them from drilling companies' greed and subsequent water contamination.

Dead corn in south Texas-- mile after mile after mile

At first they seemed "out of touch."  But then I realized, these people are living lives close to the land-- they are not tied every minute to Facebook or the internet.  They probably watch little to no TV.  They are not aware of which new documentaries have just been released on fracking.  They are a different generation of people who don't have time to sit back and ponder the meaning of life or draw conclusions about environmental degradation.  They are busy living and working.  Hopefully after our meeting yesterday, they have been awakened to the reality of what is happening around them.  This reality is not the stuff of dreams-- neither their own dreams or the dreams of their children.

Condensate tank farm in Cuero, TX

Cuero seems to be an emerging hot bed of fracking activity.  There is sand for sale on the roadside, newly sprung RV parks, new convenience stores, and signs screaming for "commercial truck drivers needed" at every corner.  From a distance, it looks like a town being revived from the dead... a town being pulled from the clutches of economic death.  But we have to ask, "Why pull it from death only to kill it slowly and even more destructively once again?"  There is a boomtown here, but the boom will finally snuff out the area for good after all the money leaves.  All that will be left will be the toxic chemical stews festering underground and bubbling up through stock ponds (if there is any water left).  You see, natural gas fracking takes no live prisoners because dead men can tell no tales.  Even their ghosts will be silenced.

Fracking wastewater pond just beyond the trees

One resident has complained to TRC and TCEQ about his well water.  One sniff of it will tell you all you need to know about the dangers of injecting chemicals and diesel fluid underground.  His well was contaminated nearly a year ago with benzene (a known carcinogen used in the fracking process).  The diesel is used as a lubricant during the drilling process, similar to the way we use WD-40 to "loosen sticky mechanisms."  Time after time, the TRC, TCEQ, and the EPA have guaranteed that there is NO WAY these chemicals can get into someone's well water.  But they can't explain how after decades of perfectly clean water, a relatively shallow water well suddenly has benzene and diesel in it and that this problem emerged in direct correlation to the drilling going on in the area.  All they know is that it's not from the drilling.  No way, they say.  They have told the resident repeatedly that there is nothing wrong with his water.  I smelled the water sample and I can tell you unequivocally THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE WATER! The jug of water in the picture below is brownish, gritty and smells heavily of diesel fuel.

Contaminated water from a well in DeWitt County, TX
The problem with all of this is that it will get worse.  Lax regulation combined with pro-industry people making all the rules, and financially depressed voiceless people being impacted, makes for a boomtown all right. The boom is not happening around you, south Texas.  It is being dropped ON you. Wake up and look up, before it's too late.

Gas flaring near Yorktown, TX


  1. I was at another "town hall" type meeting in College Station yesterday where a small number of us watched the screening of Gasland. Thanks so much for your involvement in spreading the word. I have friends all across the country who are facing this issue, and I'll do what I can to help educate people about this problem and fight it.

  2. That Cuero meeting was super. I adore salt of the earth country people because they always know what's most important.

    At one point on the drive up to College Station, my gas tank was on empty with no stations for miles. We thought about giving that jug of water a try--Tiger in the tank...

  3. Thanks, Emily, for the comment on our College Station townhall, and thanks for coming. It was a great showing for a Sunday afternoon in the summer 'off-season' for university activities. College Station sure looks dry! I've never seen it look that brown and crispy. And they're going to take more of your water for fracking activity. Sad.

  4. If you have been approached to lease your minerals you ought to check out before you make a decision.

  5. @Jerry Lobdill: I should think "leasing" minerals is not an option after knowing what we know.

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  7. Hey, surely you have something else to say by now. Tell us what's going on down there in the bowels of Texas.

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