About Air and Water

Monday, June 28, 2010

Storage Tanks explode in Wise County

By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - June 29, 2010
When people hear that a gas well or pipeline is applying for a permit to construct a natural gas production facility near their homes, they rarely mention the storage tanks. Environmentalist argue for vapor recovery systems on the tanks, but rarely do people list the storage tanks as one of their highest concerns. Evidence exists, however, which illustrates that natural gas storage tanks can be deadly:

Four tanks explode at well site
By Wise County Messenger - March 10, 2010
Flames poured from the top of a tank battery after four exploded in a pasture on Hlavek Road west of Decatur late Friday morning. Two workers suffered first degree burns. One was knocked from a ladder. He received an air transport to Parkland Hospital in Dallas. The other burn victim was taken to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur. Welders were working on the tanks, which are owned by Devon, when sparks caused a tank to explode. The lid off one of the tank batteries blew up, landing approximately 50 yards away. Black smoke and a pungent smell of burning chemicals filled the air. Fire and smoke poured from the top of one of the batteries an hour after the explosion. The fire was contained around 1 p.m.

Click here to see incredible photos

Sunday, June 27, 2010

BARNETT SHALE: Fort Worth deals with conflicting goals: redevelopment, drilling

By Randy Lee - Fort Worth Star Telegram - June 26, 2010
FORT WORTH -- Two years ago, hundreds of people packed City Hall and pressured the City Council to turn down a permit for a natural gas well site because it was 225 feet from houses.
Flash forward to 2010. The council has approved three permits in the last six months for gas sites that are even closer -- 160 to 200 feet. More are on the way.
"The easy stuff's done," Councilman W.B. "Zim" Zimmerman said.

While Fort Worth is already home to more than 1,000 natural gas wells, the city's chief gas inspector estimated in April that only 20 to 30 percent of the ultimate number of wells have been drilled.
That means 3,000 to 5,000 more are possible.

Wells are moving closer to residential areas in Northeast Tarrant County and Arlington as well. The Haltom City Council approved a site on McCullar Road, despite opposition from the Planning and Zoning Commission and concerns from some nearby residents about a frac pond on the site, after dozens of other residents turned out at a meeting to say they want to be paid for their gas production.
"It wasn't the largest crowd, but it was one of the larger ones," Mayor Bill Lanford said.

Another site, on Bewley Street, is a stone's throw from an elementary school. However, Birdville school officials spoke in favor of the site because the district will earn royalties from it, which will be used to pay for scholarships, Lanford said.
This month, the Arlington City Council granted a request to drill five wells in southwest Arlington, though one was 389 feet from a house. Though the city has a 600-foot distance requirement, the council approved the well after the driller presented signatures in favor from 73 percent of affected property owners.
In Fort Worth, the trend is affecting efforts to redevelop inner-city neighborhoods. Some residents say they're worried about the potential for air pollution and other side effects, and some are concerned by what they see as the gas companies' heavy-handed tactics.
On the other side, thousands of homeowners signed natural gas leases on their homes from 2006 to 2008, before the precipitous drop in natural gas prices. Most of those leases require the company to drill a well within two to five years. So gas companies are feeling pressure to find well sites before those leases expire. And with the recession, many residents are impatient to receive royalties, even if the payout is small.
"It's not going to get any easier," Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said.

Varied rules
Fort Worth requires wells to be at least 600 feet from "sensitive land uses" -- homes, schools, churches and the like. But it allows companies to drill as close as 300 feet if the company acquires permission from affected landowners, or if the City Council approves. Until 2008, the limit was 200 feet, and the city grandfathered "hundreds" of sites that gas companies had already bought, even if they haven't been drilled, said Rick Trice, the city's chief gas inspector.
Fort Worth's ordinance appears looser than some other area cities. Southlake and Grapevine both require 1,000-foot setbacks between wells and surrounding homes. Arlington has a 600-foot setback and allows waivers, but they have to win approval from 60 percent of affected owners and the City Council. In Haltom City, drilling is allowed only in industrial areas, unless the company first gets a zoning change.

There's another twist in Fort Worth's ordinance: Once a well site has been permitted, gas companies can apply for a pad site permit that makes it difficult to build or renovate homes and apartments within 300 feet of the site.
That provision caused Eddie Vanston some sleepless nights. He and his wife are working on a $3.6 million project to convert a warehouse into apartments or condominiums near where XTO Energy wants to drill.
"That deal doesn't happen if the well goes there," he said
XTO also applied for a permit this year to put a gas site in the lot next to an old warehouse off South Main Street that the couple recently converted into loft apartments.
If the site had been permitted, the view from Rob Franklin's second-floor window would have been obscured, at least for some time, by the drilling rig's sound wall and floodlights.
"I can't imagine how it would be for the folks downstairs who have kids," he said.

Ultimately, XTO agreed to withdraw its application and drill beneath the area from another site about a half-mile away. XTO officials declined to comment for this article.
Vanston and other business owners in the South Main corridor say the case points out a conflict between two goals Fort Worth officials are pursuing: drilling for gas and revitalizing inner-city neighborhoods. The city has spent millions establishing "urban villages" like South Main that combine high-density housing with mass transit. This month, local officials approved $3 million for street improvements in the South Main area, and South Main is also one of the routes for a proposed streetcar line.
"I've had a number of these [drill sites] where it has ramifications for other areas," said Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, who represents the area. "I hope it will be an example of how we really try to work with the drillers."

In other cases, companies have permission from all surrounding owners, but residents are still worried. Daniel Garcia lives across from a Chesapeake site at Macie Avenue and Northwest 23rd Street. Garcia said the noise from the drilling wasn't excessive, but now he's worried about potential air pollution and wonders why heavy trucks and bulldozers are digging a large pit.
"You don't know what the risk is," he said.

Neighborhood divisions
Across town, Chesapeake Energy has applied for a gas pad site on Bryant Irvin Road, within 280 feet of homes in the Lake Como neighborhood.
Some residents in Como and the nearby Ridglea town
"They think they can push whatever they want down in Como," said Herman Williams, who has lived in the area for 38 years.

The permit application shows four wells on the site, for instance. That puts most of the Ridglea town homes outside the 600-foot limit. But plans on file with the city show as many as 24 wells on the site, putting the town houses within the limit.
Julie Wilson, Chesapeake's vice president for the Barnett Shale region, said the company included information about the extra wells in an effort to be transparent.

Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

See photo of gas well and frac pond near homes in Fort Worth

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Residents press for tougher air-pollution rules at state agency's meeting in Arlington

By RANDY LEE LOFTIS - The Dallas Morning News - June 25, 2010

ARLINGTON – People who gathered Thursday night at Arlington City Hall were mad about smog, and they were even madder about the state agency in charge of fighting smog.

At a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality meeting about the latest round of strategies for cleaning up the air in North Texas, about 200 people cheered and applauded calls for tougher pollution rules.

They jeered – and coughed in unison, holding up paper masks that looked like gas masks – when state officials couldn't answer their questions.

For Susan Cooper of Richardson, it was her second attempt to press for stronger state action. She said she told a commission hearing in 2007 that she was mad about poor air quality.

"Today I am even angrier," she said. "Our air quality is even worse."

She said she was tired of picking up visitors at the airport who ask after landing, "What is that ugly brown stuff?"

The state agency must come up with a new smog plan because the region didn't meet a federal deadline this spring – far from the first time that's happened. The federal limit the region is still striving to meet dates from 1997.

North Texas is even further from meeting the much-tougher limits imposed since then.

Faith Chatham of DFW Concerned Citizens praised the commission's staff for becoming more responsive to public concerns. The problem, she said, is a lack of political support from their superiors.

"There are days when I can't open my windows because it makes me sick," she said.

She wanted environmental inspections exempted from repeated state budget cuts and a halt to new gas drilling.

Jim Schermbeck of Downwinders at Risk showed the commission's own slides that indicate how pollution from Ellis County cement plants spreads across the region. From 1997 to 2007, he said, 70 percent of ozone violations occurred in the area where the cement kilns' plumes go.

He blasted the state agency for choosing which time period to use for computer modeling of possible solutions without asking the public for advice.

"You have to see the flaw in the process when you've already made the most important decisions without any input from D-FW officials or the public," Schermbeck said.

Gina Cole of Arlington demanded jail for pollution violators and a crackdown on emissions from gas drilling in Tarrant County.

When Susana M. Hildebrand, the commission's chief engineer, answered, "I'm telling you that we are looking at those monitors," the audience responded with more coughs.

Read more in the Dallas Morning News

Jim Marston: What's missing is a commitment to healthy air

By Jim Marston - Dallas Morning News - Friday, June 18, 2010
The public spat between Gov. Rick Perry's Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the EPA has been an irresistible sound-bite war for the media. A rogue governor pitted against an aggressive federal agency threatening a takeover perfectly fits the national storyline of states'-rights conservatives vs. big-government liberals. Dim the lights, and get the popcorn
What this story and the last decade have in common, unfortunately, is the absence of an honest commitment to healthy air in Texas.

For the last decade, Texas' official protectors of air quality, TCEQ, have put business interests ahead of their mission to protect human health. TCEQ's past performance and Perry's present rhetoric demonstrate that air quality and the effects it has on our health and economy are simply not a priority in Texas. Period.

TCEQ's official mission is to "protect our state's human and natural resources consistent with sustainable economic development." But its unwritten mission is to minimize the impact of environmental regulation on Texas businesses. There's an inside joke about TCEQ: Its job is to grant pollution permits to industry, and that's exactly what it does. It doesn't punish violators. It doesn't enforce standards.

First and foremost, it issues permits. Environmental protection is a secondary activity, at best.

Enter the EPA. Individual states can assume responsibility for enforcing compliance with the federal Clean Air Act within their borders. But the EPA must oversee the enforcement, and if a state fails to comply with the act, the EPA is supposed to step in. That's what's happening right now.

For years – first under Gov. George W. Bush and then for a decade under Perry – TCEQ has, in effect, served as a pro-industry buffer between Texas polluters and the Clean Air Act. After multiple strongly worded warnings dating well back into Perry's governorship, the EPA has finally had enough and stepped in to handle permitting for facilities in Corpus Christi, Houston and Garland.

Perry's and TCEQ's willful stonewalling has finally caught up with them, and they're squealing like stuck pigs. They are calling the Clean Air Act a job killer – a 20-year-old argument that can't be proved with any credible study. On the contrary, recent studies have shown that in the new economy, regions that embrace cleaner air and water create jobs and attract better talent than those that reject it.

Make no mistake. This is not a battle of jobs or state's rights, as Perry would have us think. It is Texas telling the EPA it doesn't have to follow federal laws that protect public health. And after a decade of asking nicely, the EPA is finally – and rightfully – acting.

Of all 50 states, only Texas has been singled out this way for especially flagrant noncompliance with the Clean Air Act. Yet the governor seems to think Texas industry should have some sort of special exemption. Likewise, our governor must think Texans aren't entitled to the same health protections as the residents of other states. I suspect a lot of Texans would disagree.

Fortunately for all of us, the current spat and ridiculous rhetoric are shining a light on TCEQ's "performance" just as the agency is facing scrutiny by the state's Sunset Advisory Commission. As that sunset review proceeds, let's hope the Texas Legislature will order substantial changes in the way TCEQ does business – and make it clear to the agency's three governor-appointed commissioners that Texans' health needs to move to the top of their priority list.

If it does, I am confident they will avoid being asked to step aside by the EPA, and this bluster-fest will go away. If they don't, the sound-bite saga will continue. And so will Texas' polluter-friendly, lackluster commitment to air quality.

Jim Marston is director of the energy program and Texas regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund. His e-mail address is jmarston@edf.org.
Read more in the Dallas Morning News

DMN Editorial: TCEQ is ceding control by digging in its heels

By Dallas Morning News - May 28, 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency hasn't asked Texas officials to read between the lines. The EPA hasn't sent mixed signals, and it hasn't acted without warning.

For more than a year, the Obama administration has been beating the same drum, telling the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that its permitting system falls short of federal standards.

Yet some Texas leaders and regulators still seem shocked – shocked – that the EPA made good on its promise last week and stripped the state of some of its permitting powers.

In meeting after meeting, federal officials have urged the TCEQ to change its approach to regulating industrial air pollution. The Texas response to the EPA? You just don't understand.

A key sticking point for federal officials has been our state's "flexible permit" program, which limits emissions from an entire facility instead of requiring each unit to meet pollution standards. Environmental experts have argued that the Texas approach allows some individual units to spew more toxins than permitted by law. The EPA says that the program violates the Clean Air Act.

For their part, TCEQ officials have argued – again and again – that the flexible permits are simply misunderstood. Commission chairman Bryan Shaw and executive director Mark Vickery are saying some of the right things, touting the importance of a collaborative process and a willingness to work with the EPA.

But they've offered only words – not deeds – in this saga. And they continue to make the same argument, somehow expecting a different result.

Incredibly, Gov. Rick Perry has weighed in with what amounts to self-righteous indignation, claiming that the federal government has "put a bull's-eye on the backs of hardworking Texans." If anyone should shoulder responsibility for leaving industrial facilities in this uncomfortable position, it's Perry.

The TCEQ is populated entirely with Perry appointees, who have been told in no uncertain terms that businesses' interests are a top priority. Ultimately, though, it's businesses that could pay a price for the state's lack of rigor in enforcing environmental regulations.

So far, the EPA's takeover has been limited to the permit governing an East Corpus Christi refinery. But that's just a warning shot.

Federal officials have identified dozens of other Texas permits that violate the Clean Air Act. And if state regulators don't show compliance within the next month, the EPA could take decisive action.

TCEQ officials plan to continue talks with their federal counterparts. But the argument that "we're so misunderstood" doesn't amount to a strategy or a way forward.

State regulators could do Texas industry a favor by taking a more aggressive approach to enforcement. Otherwise, the state will be handing the reins to the EPA.

Clean Air Act violations
The EPA identified several problems with the draft operating permit for a Flint Hills Resources refinery in East Corpus Christi. The permit, written by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, violates the Clean Air Act because it:

• Improperly relies on the refinery's separate "flexible" permit, which itself does not comply with the Clean Air Act.

• Obscures key requirements by directing the reader to other documents instead of stating the requirements plainly. The Clean Air Act mandates a "clear and meaningful" statement of permit provisions so the public can monitor a facility's operations.

• Requires just three years of environmental record-keeping. The Clean Air Act requires five years.

• Fails to identify the specific equipment covered by some requirements.

• Omits information needed to determine if the refinery should have been subject to enhanced scrutiny.

SOURCE: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Read more in the Dallas Morning News

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to consider Barnett Shale in emissions plan, official says

Sharon Wilson of Earthworks distributed what she called the "Mark III B.S. protection mask" to people attending the TCEQ meeting Thursday night at the Arlington City Council Chambers

BY BILL HANNA - Fort Worth Star Telegram - June 25, 2010
- billhanna@star-telegram.com
ARLINGTON -- State environmental regulators "absolutely" will consider Barnett Shale emissions as part of a new plan to bring North Texas into compliance with federal ozone standards, an official with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said Thursday night.
Susana Hildebrand, the agency's chief engineer, said "everything is on the table" to bring the nine-county region into compliance with the 1997 EPA ozone standard of 85 parts per billion.
"We are particularly concerned about those emissions in Tarrant County," Hildebrand said. "I'm telling you, we are looking at those monitors. Our plan will look at those sites.
But most of the audience in the packed Arlington City Council chambers seemed skeptical.
Calvin Tillman, the mayor of the Denton County town of Dish, which has been a focal point in the testing of Barnett Shale emissions, said the agency is ignoring the natural gas industry as an ozone source.
"Are you here to protect the citizens, the people who came out here today, or are you here to protect large corporations?" Tillman asked. "Because frankly, I don't know whose side you're on."

Hildebrand responded that vapor recovery systems will be considered as part of the plan.
Industry praise
One of the few speakers not critical of the agency was Ed Ireland, executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, an industry group. He praised TCEQ for installing air-monitoring systems and encouraged the agency to install more.
He said the air-monitoring sites in Dish and other locations have shown that the air near gas drilling sites is safe.
The EPA is in the process of reclassifying the Dallas-Fort Worth noncompliance area from moderate to serious. That will officially happen by Dec. 15.
The area's eight-hour ozone average for 2007, 2008 and 2009 was 86 parts per billion, placing it outside the 1997 standard.
The TCEQ will have a year to create a plan once the EPA reclassifies the area, and it will go into effect Dec. 15, 2013.
The EPA is also expected to rule by the end of August on the new standard, which will be between 60 and 70 parts per billion.
Even as the new standard is announced, the 1997 rules and deadlines will still apply, the EPA said.
Anthony Spangler, a spokesman for state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, read a statement from Davis urging that selective catalytic reduction systems similar to one that will be installed on the Lafarge North American cement kiln in Illinois be used on Midlothian cement kilns.
According to Davis, the systems can reduce nitrogen oxides by 80 to 90 percent. Davis also urged the state agency to consider transporting salt water from oil and gas drilling operations through pipelines rather than diesel trucks.
BILL HANNA, 817-390-7698

Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

Exxon completes buyout of XTO Energy

BY BOB COX - Fort Worth Star Telegram - June 25, 2010

XTO Energy is now part of Exxon Mobil Corp., ending a remarkable 24-year story that saw the Fort Worth company become one of the nation's leading independent oil and gas producers.
The sale of XTO to Exxon, which was announced in December, was formalized Friday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, just hours after stockholders approved the merger.
"It's been a wonderful run as an independent company," Bob Simpson, chairman and co-founder of XTO, said at the shareholders meeting after the votes were tallied.
Irving-based Exxon appointed Jack Williams, a fast-rising executive at the oil giant, to be president of XTO, which will be operated as a wholly owned subsidiary.
Williams will move into the XTO headquarters in downtown Fort Worth to assume day-to-day management, but Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said there will be few other changes.
Keith Hutton, previously chief executive of XTO, will remain as executive vice president. All five of XTO's senior leaders were given consulting contracts by Exxon.
"We're really maintaining them as a separate entity," Jeffers said.
"We want them to continue doing what they've been doing."
Exxon is pleased that XTO has been able to retain nearly all of its 3,300-plus employees, Jeffers said, including about 1,500 downtown and at the former Swift & Co. headquarters on Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards. "We've worked very hard to make sure the people know they are valued."
In a statement issued by Exxon, Williams said: "With this agreement, we are combining XTO's skills, capabilities and asset base with Exxon Mobil's advanced research and development and operational capabilities, global scale and financial capacity. The new organization will create the opportunity for more jobs and investment in the development and production of clean-burning natural gas both here in the United States and around the world."
Fewer than 100 people, many of them XTO executives and employees, attended the stockholder meeting Friday at the Fort Worth Club. After opening the 10-minute meeting and giving time for any additional votes to be cast, Simpson announced that stockholders owning about 78 percent of the company's stock, or roughly 455 million shares, voted 99 percent in favor of the buyout.
There seemed just a trace of emotion in Simpson's voice when he told the audience, "I want to thank personally everyone who made it happen," referring to XTO's history. "Exxon has made a wonderful decision; they have the best. This company will continue as a wholly owned subsidiary, and it will continue to do well."
Simpson, who co-founded the company in 1986 with Jon Brumley and Steve Palko, declined to be interviewed after the meeting.
It was an emotional moment for Tena Pruitt, an administrative assistant for eight years who plans to stay with the company. "They're so amazing," Pruitt said of XTO's leadership.
XTO stockholders will receive a 0.7098 share of Exxon Mobil common stock for each XTO share. The cash portion of the deal was originally valued at $31 billion, but Exxon's stock price has declined about 20 percent since that time.

Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Company investigated over gas pipeline in site of old landfill

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is investigating Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners for installing a gas pipeline through the site of an old landfill in Fort Worth without getting proper permission.

By AMAN BATHEJA - Fort Worth Star Telegram - June 23, 2010

FORT WORTH - The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is investigating a company that installed a gas pipeline through the site of an old landfill in northeast Fort Worth without getting proper permission.
Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners is installing a 30-inch pipeline that runs from just north of Arlington to a network of interstate pipelines near Justin.
The line, designed to transport natural gas produced from drill sites in the Barnett Shale, is expected to start operating in the third quarter of this year.
Mary Kelleher's home in the 7900 block of Randol Mill Road is next door to the empty lot where the pipeline has been installed. She complained to the environmental agency this month when she noticed that the company's workers found trash while digging. An agency investigator visited the site June 11.
"TCEQ investigators noted large pieces of concrete, limbs, stumps, wood pieces, rebar, and metal piping along with standing water in the trench," according to a statement from the agency. "In addition, the investigators noted the same types of debris in the excavated piles of soil resting next to the trench."

The site was listed as a former unauthorized landfill on a database maintained by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Companies are supposed to check the database before installing a pipeline in the region, according to officials.
Enterprise spokesman Rick Rainey said the company was unaware of the landfill off Randol Mill. He said that the company was aware of a landfill along another part of the same pipeline and took appropriate steps there.
"If you identify a landfill along your route, it requires a little more excavation, and a few more steps are taken," Rainey said.

Enterprise has over 8,000 miles of natural gas pipeline installed in Texas.
Rainey said the company has "mitigated" the site that is under investigation, including properly disposing of the waste found there.
"At this point, we're waiting for the state to say: 'Everything looks good. We are good to proceed,'" Rainey said.

The agency hopes to complete the investigation by July 10, spokesman Terry Clawson said. Enterprise could be fined or issued a "notice of violation," he said.
The Legislature directed regional organizations to create landfill databases in 1993, said Samuel Brush, manager of environment and development for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
The council's database includes hundreds of locations, Brush said. Some sites were once legitimately permitted landfills. Others were illegal dumps where people unloaded trucks of trash from the side of the road.
Information on many locations is sparse, so it's important for companies digging on those sites to excavate thoroughly and analyze the waste they find, Brush said.
"It is the uncertainty of what's under the ground that you need to be careful,' Brush said. "Construction debris is less of a concern than maybe drums of hazardous waste."
Another danger is methane gas, a nontoxic but explosive gas that some landfills produce, Brush said.

Kelleher owns about 11 acres on Randol Mill Road. Behind her house are a small pond and a farm with llamas, donkeys, goats and feral piglets. She calls it her "little nirvana."
For months, Kelleher has been warily watching workers install the pipeline about 60 feet from her bedroom window.
"My concern, of course, is with my own safety. I don't like the fact that the pipeline is on trash," Kelleher said. "I'm frustrated."
Search the North Central Texas Council of Governments landfill database here.

Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/06/23/2288039/houston-company-investigated-over.html#ixzz0ris4HAdC

Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

Fort Worth OKs high-impact gas wells close to homes Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/06/22/2285423/fort-worth-oks-high-impact-gas.html#ix

BY MIKE LEE - Fort Worth Star Telegram - June 23, 2010
FORT WORTH -- City Council members approved a permit for a high-impact natural gas site after nearly an hour of debate Tuesday.
Chesapeake Energy wants to put four wells at a site just east of Loop 820 and south of Interstate 30. The site is within 225 feet of nearby homes, though, and Chesapeake did not have permission from all the owners within 600 feet. That left it up to the council to decide.
Chesapeake argued that it had approval from the homeowners closest to the site -- those within 300 feet.
"They should have the strongest voice, being the closest to the site," Chesapeake representative Mercedes Bolin said.
The wells will produce natural gas revenue for 2,100 property owners in East Fort Worth, and several people from the Ryanwood Neighborhood Association spoke in favor of it. More than 200 people signed letters supporting the site.
But some other landowners, between 300 and 600 feet, disapproved.
Opponents said Chesapeake didn't consider alternative sites, and questioned whether the company was truthful with owners who signed waivers. They produced 100 letters opposed to the site.

"They blitzed the neighborhood but they did not mention anywhere in there the downsides," said Esther McElfish, who is on the board of the North Central Texas Communities Association.

The council split, 5-3, in favor of the site. Council members Kathleen Hicks and Joel Burns, who have opposed other high-impact sites, were opposed, as was Councilman Frank Moss, who said he was concerned about the truck route. Councilman Jungus Jordan abstained because his family receives income from Chesapeake.

Mike Lee, 817-390-7539

Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lawmakers respond to TCEQ Snafu

By Aman Batheju - Barnett Shale blog - Star Telegram - MAY 28, 2010
This week’s revelations regarding the air quality test results the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality presented to the city of Fort Worth drew plenty of responses from elected officials.

The state agency gave inaccurate results about toxic emissions from gas wells to the Fort Worth City Council in January and when it realized the error, failed to notify the city or the public for weeks.

John Sadlier, the agency's deputy director, has said the agency has learned from the mistake.

We have the responses from Gov. Rick Perry and Democratic challenger Bill White on our Politex blog.

Here's what other elected officials had to say:

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth:
Davis filed a wide-ranging open records request with TCEQ today including for all files and e-mails related to the Dec. air testing in Fort Worth.

"I want the TCEQ to turn over all documents pertaining to the air testing the Barnett Shale arena so that we can determine the level at which the TCEQ has been dishonest with the public," Davis said in a statement. "The TCEQ must be transparent and held accountable to the taxpayers, and we cannot allow an agency to play fast and loose with the health and safety of our communities."

Davis said Thursday that she wants to introduce legislation that would make it a crime for public officials to withhold information that could affect public health. She met with high-level officials at the environmental agency from January to March to discuss air pollution problems, but no one mentioned the problems with the previous tests.

"It is only because of the fraud complaint filed by a concerned individual that these disturbing developments about dangerous benzene exposures have been revealed," Davis said in a statement.

State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth:

The three elevated testing sites appeared to all be in Veasey's district In a letter to the environmental agency's leadership, Veasey said its handling of the issue was "unacceptable."

"If public safety had been the TCEQ's primary concern, it would have recognized that subsequent testing showing potential problems should have been immediately reported to the media, local officials, and the general public," Veasey wrote.

He also wrote that he plans to ask Fort Worth to consider ceasing all drilling activity "in the immediate areas of concern until further testing can be done to ensure that residents of my district and their families are safe."

State Rep. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills:

Hancock said the criticism of the agency is overblown because it attempted to rectify the situation by doing the second round of tests.

"I think the key point to remember is, in February, the sites were retested, and they all came back significantly below the long-term exposure limits," Hancock said.

Hancock, a vice president at a chemical company, said he didn't understand why the agency bothered to retest the older samples in the air canisters.

"Actually the second tests were very unscientific," he said. "The canisters they used had been sitting on the shelves for a long time. ... If the tests had come back at lower levels, then everyone who's complaining now would want to throw those tests out."

Dish Mayor Calvin Tillman:

Tillman wants an outside investigation by the U.S. Justice Department or Congress.

"It's obvious they're not going to hold themselves accountable," he said. "These guys are just straight up lying to the public."

-Aman Batheja

Read more: http://startelegram.typepad.com/barnett_shale/2010/05/lawmakers-respond-to-tceq-test-snafu.html#ixzz0qxgP9mb7

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mass. study: Wood power worse polluter than coal

By the Associated Press - June 10, 2010 at 7:04 PM
BOSTON (AP) — A new study has found that wood-burning power plants using trees and other "biomass" from New England forests releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than coal over time.

The six-month study, commissioned by Massachusetts state environmental officials, found biomass-fired electricity would result in a 3 percent increase in carbon emissions compared to coal-fired electricity by 2050.

Coal is considered one of the chief culprits of greenhouse gas emissions.
The report, conducted by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, concludes that the net cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases from replacing coal-fired plants with biomass would be 3 percent greater by 2050 than from using coal to generate electricity.

Researchers arrived at the figure by comparing how much carbon is emitted into the atmosphere through the burning of wood — what they termed "carbon debt" — with the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere from the regrowth of forests, or "carbon dividends."

The report found that harvesting trees for biomass facilities could have "significant localized impacts on the landscape, including aesthetic impacts of locally heavy harvesting as well as potential impacts on recreation and tourism."

The study has broad policy implications for states like Massachusetts. And environmental groups called the study "a wake up call."

"The sobering conclusion is that Massachusetts cannot produce very much new energy from forest resources while also protecting the health of our forests and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Sue Reid, a staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation.

Biomass has long been part of the state's portfolio of renewable energy sources, along with solar, wind and geothermal energy. The Patrick administration has already invested $1 million to jump-start four proposed wood-burning plants in Russell, Greenfield, Springfield and Pittsfield, as it tries to reach the state-mandated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Massachusetts Environmental Secretary Ian Bowles said Thursday the state is now rethinking that policy, including taxpayer incentives for wood-burning plants.
"Now that we know that electricity from biomass harvested from New England forests is not 'carbon neutral' in a timeframe that makes sense given our legal mandate to cut greenhouse gas emissions, we need to re-evaluate our incentives for biomass," he said in a statement accompanying the report.

Biomass plant owners have long argued that it's unfair to lump wood-burning plants in with coal plants. They say that every megawatt of power produced by wood-burning plants replaces a megawatt from a coal plant. But unlike coal, they argue, trees left standing can absorb the carbon dioxide released when wood is burned.

And trees cut down for fuel can be replanted. If done in a sustainable way, they say, the annual growth in trees replanted or left standing will be enough to recapture the carbon being released.

Matthew Wolfe, an executive with Cambridge-based Madera Energy Inc., which is developing the Greenfield plant, said the report ignores the fact that much of the fuel used by biomass plants is waste wood.

"By eliminating biomass as an energy option, you are by default promoting further use of fossil fuels," he said.

The report makes a series of recommendations, including forcing biomass facilities to detail where they get their supply of wood and requiring them to purchase wood from forests with approved forest management plans.

The report also recommends additional environmental protections at locations where trees are being cut down for biomass plants, including "requiring enough coarse woody debris is left on the ground, particularly at nutrient poor sites, to ensure continued soil productivity, as well as sufficient standing dead wildlife trees remain to promote biodiversity."

Bowles commissioned the study after environmental activists warned biomass power plants could add to global warming. Activists are also pushing a Massachusetts ballot question to severely restrict the amount of carbon dioxide the power plants can emit.
Massachusetts is planning a series of hearings on the report beginning in July.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs: www.mass.gov/eoeea
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Travel to other worlds ... UTA Planetarium

Immersive full-dome 3-D Digital planetarium show narrated by Ewan McGregor (Obi wan Kepobi from Star Wars) - Astronaut takes you exporing the worlds of inner and outer space. The movie is projected all around you. You recline in specially constructed chairs which enables you to comfortably view the immersive full-dome planetarium show. Astronaut! (produced from the National Space Centre in England) goes beyond the stereotypical space movie. Experience a rocket launch from inside the body of the astronaut. Float around the international Space Station moving thorugh the microscopic regions of the human body! Discover the beauty and perils as "Chad", the test astronaut experiences everything thrown at him.

Summer Schedule (June 2-August 26):


shows at the UTA Planetarium.

Wed. through Saturdays at 11 a.m.
and Thursday at 7:00 p.m.

Cosmic CSI

shows at the UTA Planetarium 3-D Digital Dome.

Wed. through Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Rock Hall of Fame 1 (The Original)

shows at the UTA Planetarium.

Thursday at 8:00 p.m.

Read more (Warning their flat dull website doesn't give much of a glimmer of the multi-dimensional experience you'll have once you enter the dome of the UTA Planetarium!)

Admission: Adults: $5.00

Seniors, Students, Children: $4.00

UTA Faculty, Staff & Alumni (with ID): $3.00

UTA Studens (with ID): $2.00

Groups of 10 or more with reservation: $3.00

Call 817 272-1183 or e-mail planetarium@uta.edu