About Air and Water

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

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