Eagle Ford Shale Is Causing Air Pollution -- Lots

Categories: Environment

Graphic by Earthworks
People have been saying this screws up the air, but now a study purports to prove it.

If you live around here and you haven't heard about the Eagle Ford Shale oil and natural gas play in the past few years, you just haven't been paying attention. The shale play that stretches from South Texas into Mexico is one of the key developments that has revitalized the U.S. energy sector after years of decline. The oil and gas from this play, like the Barnett Shale in North Texas and the Bakken in North Dakota, was unlocked from the shale by using a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to shatter the brittle shale and get the hydrocarbons flowing.

This has been been an economic boom for a bunch of small towns in South Texas, right at the heart of Eagle Ford, but with all the drilling comes a price. While we haven't seen contaminated water that studies and activists have reported from the Barnett, a study has found that all the oil and money has come with a cost, a decline in air quality.

In a story jointly reported by the Center for Public Integrity, the Weather Channel and InsideClimate News, it was found that more than 7,000 oil and gas wells have been sunk in the Eagle Ford since 2008. This means money, but it also translates to people's homes being surrounded by wells with state permission to release tons of volatile organic compounds, a class of toxic chemicals that includes benzene and formaldehyde, into the air each year.

The story dug into what Texas has been doing to protect people living on top of the Eagle Ford -- which is more than 400 miles long and 50 miles wide -- from oil industry-produced pollutants. As anyone familiar with the Texas approach to regulation in general and environmental regulation in particular will be unsurprised to learn, it turns out Texas doesn't do much at all.

The air monitoring system sucks so the state has no idea (if we had to bet, they probably don't want to know) what kind of pollution is being produced along with all that Texas Tea from the Eagle Ford. Thousands of oil and natural gas facilities are allowed to self-report emissions, which is the same as having no reporting at all.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state regulatory agency charged with overseeing all things environment in Texas, has had its budget slashed so there's even less oversight from state regulators these days. Even if a company is fined for pollution, the fines are comparatively tiny.

The story goes on to detail the many problems on the rise with the Eagle Ford. Since the boom started a few years ago, the Eagle Ford hasn't gained the notoriety that came with the air and water problems from the Barnett or the flammable water and contaminated wells from the Marcellus. But it seems the honeymoon is over, and the days of the Eagle Ford being viewed as pure gain are most likely about to end.

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I certainly agree! I love Texas, but it has gotten bad. Just in 2013 we ranked #2 in "unhealthy" ozone days, California ranked #1. I was born and raised in Texas, we did however move to Florida right after I was born; due to my dad being a military electrician, and he was called out to a big job on a new runway they were building on a military base. We ended up moving back to Texas when I was about 6 years old. I was healthy up until that point. I developed quite of few respiratory issues due to the air quality here; as stated by my doctor. I constantly developed bronchitis, I still do to this day! I had asthma up until my late teens, and I was real sensitive to any strong smells. I am 29 now, I get bronchitis about 2-3 times per year and it's getting worse! I have a 6 year old son now, and I don't want him suffering from what I suffered from. We are moving to Florida as soon as my wife and I are done with med school. On the plus side, the beaches in Florida are amazing compared to Texas and it's filthy coast. We even had a recent oil spill in Galveston Bay! I can't even go fishing there anymore due to that mess, nor would i step foot in the water there, you can't even see your toes! We are moving to the Sarasota area near Siesta Key, FL. That beach ranked #1 beach compared to even the beaches in Hawaii back in 2011 I believe. Yeah I definitely am gone lol.

We moved to Houston from the Beaumont/Port Arthur area to further our education and get in a better job market, it is a great economy here, Houston even avoided the recession, but i'll take a pay cut to get the heck out of here. I pay 1100 bucks per month to live in a decent apartment in League City, I highly doubt it's any more expensive than that to live in Florida lol. At least I won't develop COPD (or I hope it's not too late for me), but it's not too late for my son.

I don't think it will ever change, with all of the production of new refineries here, and increasing population due to job market and economy. Americans will do anything to get some extra bank in their pockets, even if it means putting their family's health at risk, same thing with working in the refineries, they pay good money to work there, I know, I got offered a big salary to work as a Firefighter at one of the major plants. No way am I doing that. The cost of living may be higher in Florida, but you get what you pay for, and Texas is like eating a big mac, you still eat it because it tastes good, but it's slowly killing you lol. If I had to compared the quality of living in Florida, i'd say it's like a healthy spinach salad lol hell you could even throw a slice of grilled chicken on it and it'd still be good for you! Alright that's enough of my food puns, but sorry Texas, you just ain't right for me anymore ;( I will miss this place, but I won't miss getting that chronic bronchitis.

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