Peeling the Barnett Shale Onion
Bradbury: “I don’t believe the neighborhoods were actually defrauded.” Naomi Vaughan
Some believe that the drilling task force is weighted too heavily in favor of the industry. Naomi Vaughan
De Los Santos: “Everybody is wondering what the next surprise is going to be.” Naomi Vaughan
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Scary questions have already emerged from beneath the drilling-boom bucks – and who knows what’s next?
By PETER GORMAN
When a natural gas pipeline blew outside the little Central Texas town of Stairtown on Aug. 28, fire officials more than 10 miles from the blast site said they could feel the explosion. And hair went up on thousands of necks in Fort Worth, more than 200 miles away.
“That was a 36-inch gas pipe that blew,” said Gary Hogan, a member of the Fort Worth Gas Drilling Task Force, which is trying to find ways to make Barnett Shale activity in Fort Worth safer for people and the environment. “We’ve got 36-inch gas pipes running all over the place under the city, and we’re going to have a lot more soon. I don’t want to think about what that would have meant if it had happened here.”
As it was, the explosion, in a rural area, hurt no one. But the same explosion, occurring in downtown Fort Worth, would have been devastating. So would any of the dozens of other gas well and pipeline explosions that have rocked Texas in the last year. It was just one more grim piece of the education that North Texans have been getting, lesson after troubling lesson, since those first drilling company reps showed up on local doorsteps a few years ago, waving money and contracts.
Then, it just seemed like found money to residents, many of whom had never known they even owned mineral rights. Now, they have to weigh the $20 to $50 in average monthly royalties against things like the fear that some company will file an eminent domain claim to take half their yard. For a pipeline. Full of odorless gas. In pipes that corrode from the inside as they get older (and get sold, probably, to increasingly low-rent owners). And a well that might be drilled under the local cemetery, or take away use of popular hiking trails, or cost the city some of its oldest, grandest trees. And produce wastewater so toxic it’s flammable. That’s being injected underground, where it likely has ruined water wells and poisoned aquifers. Or pumped into heavy trucks running full-speed, fully loaded, and in large numbers, down roads where children play. And a compressor station —what the heck is that? — that may run 24-7, give off poisonous gas, and emit low-frequency noise that could make neighbors and their kids seriously ill.
Well, surely the city can control all this, make these things safe, keep ’em out of areas where they shouldn’t be. Well, no, that’s not sure at all. No, you probably can’t refuse to let the pipeline company dig up your yard. No, all the wells aren’t being kept 600 feet away from all schools and homes (because, for one thing, an apartment isn’t classified as a “home” for this purpose). No, the city has — or claims to have — no control at all over many aspects of Barnett Shale activity. Fort Worth has yet to turn down a request for a “high-impact” well — that is, one that is allowed exceptions to the rules. Neither state nor federal agencies are doing much regulation. And in the meantime, 2,000 to 3,000 wells have been drilled or are planned just within Loop 820.
Attorney Liane Janovsky became an activist in her Ryan Place neighborhood on the South Side two years ago, over the idea of a string of wells going up across the street from her neighborhood. Since then, she’s become appalled at the arrogance and omissions of the gas companies. “There’s so much we weren’t told,” she said, “it’s hard to know where to begin.”
But Fort Worth residents, enrolled late in the school of hard knocks, are learning. How to read — and hold out for changes in — the fine print in contracts. How to band together for better deals and safety clauses. How to ask questions – like, did the city council or city staff know these problems were coming? And if they did know, who did they tell? And if they didn’t, why not?
Like how to fight back, for another thing.
Janovsky got involved when she discovered that eight gas wells were planned along the 8th Avenue train tracks, just across from the stately and historic gates of Ryan Place. At the time, she opposed the drilling for a number of reasons: increased traffic, noise pollution, road damage, home devaluation, and, scariest of all, the possibility of explosions if train sparks came in contact with leaking gas. Community pressure eventually forced the drillers to move those wells away from the historic neighborhoods of Berkeley, Ryan Place, and Mistletoe Heights (and into poorer areas). But Janovsky remains incensed at the drillers.
“I don’t think the average citizen knew that this was in the [works] when Ken Barr was mayor, as far back as maybe 2001 or 2002,” she said. “I asked Frank Moss, the city councilman from District 5 [from 1998 to 2004, reelected in 2007], why we didn’t do more to prepare the urban core for this sort of intense drilling. And he said that when the gas companies were discussing city drilling, they only discussed more rural areas, and he didn’t know they were interested in inner city drilling. So nobody planned anything.”
Whatever city officials did or didn’t know at the beginning of the Barnett Shale boom, it’s clear now that one of the most aggressive, transformative changes in Fort Worth’s history is proceeding, not with any plan (except maybe the drillers’ plans) but with government playing catch-up and reacting rather than being ahead of the curve.
Take the damage to streets and highways. Michael Peters, the Texas Department of Transportation spokesman for the Fort Worth area, said the Barnett Shale heavy-truck traffic “has severely stressed our roadways statewide.” But until and unless the Texas Legislature acts, the agency has no mechanism for collecting fees from drilling and pipeline companies to offset the repair costs.
Nor does the city have any plan in place for recouping costs from the 40-ton trucks that are destroying many city streets. Only recently has the city begun work on a plan to charge truck fees to the gas companies, modeled on what smaller cities like Denton and Burleson have already done.
There are also problems with the compressors necessary to move the gas from gathering lines to transmission lines. “The big machines generate heat while compressing gas and that makes a lot of noise,” said Susan De Los Santos, a member of the drilling task force. “If the gas companies would agree to put them in industrially zoned neighborhoods, that would be one thing. But they want to put this heavy industrial use next to residential neighborhoods not zoned for that type of use.”
Compressors also put out low level noise frequencies that have been known — in other industries — to cause vibroacoustic disease, a whole-body, noise-induced pathology that’s been known to lead to stroke, heart problems, and rage reactions, among a host of other symptoms.
No representatives from the major Fort Worth drilling companies returned calls seeking comment for this story.
Part of the reason there has been so little advance planning by the city is that, despite the experience in oil and gas matters of people like Mayor Mike Moncrief, there’s never been a major natural gasfield drilled in the middle of a large city, and the Barnett Shale technology itself is still evolving. Another part, in the minds of some, has been the city’s unwillingness to confront the problems and to move to protect residents, at the cost of opposition and possible lost income from drilling operations. But a third factor, and possibly the most powerful, has been that in Texas, owners (or lessors) of mineral rights have huge power — over surface-rights owners, and, at least thus far, over the usual rules such as zoning that apply to any other industrial activity. That’s what gas drilling is – a profitable, dangerous, noisy, smelly, heavy-duty, chemical- and machinery-laden industry, going on in close proximity to houses and neighborhoods all over town.
If the questions about Barnett Shale started with how much people were getting in bonuses and royalties, the debate quickly segued to environmental and health effects that could linger for decades or centuries after the shale has been sucked dry of gas deposits. Without tough government oversight, residents have had only the word of drilling companies about the safety or dangers of their operations.
Gas companies assured homeowners and officials in Parker County, for instance, that because water wells they were drilling (in conjunction with the gas wells) were going into the deep Trinity Aquifer and not the shallow Paluxy Aquifer that so many rural residents depend on, there was little or no chance that one could affect the other. But Parker County Commissioner Jim Webster had tests done that showed that half the water wells he investigated were actually drilled into the shallow Paluxy. And many water wells in the county have been ruined or degraded, in close proximity in distance and time, to actual gas well drilling activities.
Don Young was one of the first to envision what the long-term, widespread effects of drilling could be and founded Fort Worth CAN-DO (Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Ordinance). Fort Worth Weekly, in cover stories and other articles dating back to June 2005, also helped uncover many of the concerns — the almost complete lack of regulation over what drillers were doing with their wastewater or with their tremendous use of groundwater for the “fraccing” process that busts natural gas from the rock formations in which it is embedded.
Now, however, a broad range of public officials and private citizens have either validated those concerns or raised new ones. A Wise County resident and retired owner of a private investigation firm recently went to court and successfully fought an injection well by Pioneer Exploration LTD that was about to go into operation in Greenwood, just north of Tarrant County. Drilling wastewater — the stuff the companies are putting in the ground in the injection wells — is so laced with hydrocarbons and other chemicals that the Federal Chemical Safety Board has classified it as a flammable material. That would be no surprise to the families of drivers and others who’ve been injured or killed in incidents in which trucks or other containers full of the wastewater have exploded.
And a retired high-profile attorney in Houston, who worked for decades in the pipeline industry, said what is happening with pipelines in Fort Worth now is dangerous and unnecessary — that is, allowing unodorized natural gas to run in pipelines under the city, so that leaks might not be detected before they reach lethal or explosive levels.
“Everybody is wondering what the next surprise is going to be that they haven’t told us about,” said De Los Santos. “And that distrust has been earned by the gas companies because of their behavior to this point.”
Think of it like the old song that kids learn about the hip bone connected to the leg bone. In the shale, each well is connected to a gathering line, which is connected to a transmission line, which runs to the compressor station, where the gas is cleaned and compressed and sent on farther to the users. And all of those gas-filled “bones” are running underneath the streets and neighborhoods of Fort Worth.
Jerry Lobdill, a retired physicist and chemical engineer, estimates that at least 175 miles of gathering lines will have to be laid just to serve the wells inside Loop 820, “and the reality is that there will probably be twice that number.” The gas in those pipes not only is unodorized but is also “wet,” meaning it’s heavy with water, salt, and other chemicals that contribute to corrosion of the pipes.
Wet gas has been through a water separator, to remove much of the wastewater used in the fraccing process, but not nearly enough to prevent problems, said Greg Hughes, a member of the CREDO coalition, a citizens’ group trying to secure a moratorium on new gas drilling in Fort Worth. “The problem with those lines,” he said, “is that they are carbon steel and they corrode from the inside. Those pipelines have corrosion protection on the outside that prevents rust from occurring between the pipe and the earth, but there is nothing to prevent rust from occurring inside the lines. There are mechanical devices that you can run inside your lines called ‘smart pigs,’ which can detect corrosion after it occurs. But to stop it you would have to halt gas in the line, dig up the pipe, and replace it — a very expensive proposition.”
Based on the major explosions that have occurred around the Barnett Shale during the last several years, Lobdill said, the probability is that in a city with enough lines running beneath it to serve 3,000 wells, “we can expect a major incident every six months.”
“And what if it’s not an explosion, but just a leak?” asked Hogan. Not only does the gas have no smell that would alert anyone to a leak, but the companies are not required to file any documents with the city showing where the lines are. “So if anything should go wrong it would be a disaster,” Hogan said. “Our haz-mat [hazardous materials] people won’t even know which way to evacuate people.”
Susan Alanis, the city’s director of planning and development, said that the city may begin requiring companies to file pipeline plats here. They already must be provided to property owners and the Texas Railroad Commission, she said, but “there is a little lag time in accessing” the state records so “we’re considering having them give a copy to the city as they are built.”
The retired attorney and pipeline industry executive said there’s no excuse for allowing wet, unodorized gas to be piped beneath the city.
“I have friends who live in a subdivision that’s very prestigious — not rich but prestigious. Right behind them are the Trinity Trails, and when they got their lease offers, they realized they were going to dig a well in them,” he recounted. “So I called a friend who’s a professional pipeline engineer and asked if he’d be comfortable having a gas well a quarter-mile behind his house. He said no. Then I asked him if he’d be comfortable with having a raw gas pipeline that you couldn’t smell running there, and he said no. Then I asked whether a person might just walk there when there was a leak and find themselves falling over dead. His answer was yes.”
In one incident involving a pipeline laid in Houston by the company he formerly worked for, the attorney said, “it leaked, and a man walked into his house, flipped on his light, and his house exploded, killing him. And that was a pipe that carried dry gas and was only three years old. If it was odorized he would have smelled it.”
He also talked about the infamous New London school gas explosion, in which unodorized gas seeped into a Texas school in 1937. “Children had been nauseated for several days but no one could figure out what was causing it. Well, there was an unodorized gas leak, and when a janitor turned on an electric [switch], the gas ignited, blowing up the school” and killing 300 children.
His solution, he said, would be to dehydrate the gas at the well head, eliminating the danger of corrosion, running a smart pig through the line every two weeks, and odorizing the gas. “And then put those lines 10 or 20 feet underground. Because people will statistically die from this. That’s just a reality. And if the companies say, well, head dehydration units are not possible, they’re full of it. XTO has a unit on a well on South Granbury Road because the gas is going straight into a transmission line and the company that owns that line … won’t permit wet gas in their transmission lines. Chesapeake has a dehydration unit on a well just north of downtown for the same reason.”
Jim Bradbury, an attorney and task force member, said that the issue of unodorized gas came up a meeting. “The oil company representatives said it was problematic to odorize the gas at the wellhead because the odorization would foul the compressor station equipment. Someone else from the industry noted that since compressors release some of the gas they’re processing, you would have too many ‘false positives’ if people smelled odorized gas. But I ask, what’s the cost of a false negative?”
However, the task force won’t get to make a recommendation on the standards for gas to be allowed in pipelines. Like several other major issues involving the Barnett Shale, that question was taken off the task force’s agenda and given to the city staff to handle.
“We were disappointed that that issue was taken away from us. Let’s leave it at that,” said De Los Santos.
A bigger problem may be what happens in years to come. “One of the pipeline issues that’s been bothering us is what happens to the wells when the big companies lose interest?” said former city councilman Clyde Picht, a member of the CREDO coalition.
A decade or so from now, “when those wells stop producing enough, Chesapeake will head back to Oklahoma and sell them to a mid-sized company,” Picht said. “They’ll run them for some time, but finally they’ll be sold to some cut-rate company that won’t check the pipeline at all.”
Hogan noted that homeowners should also realize that if there is a blowout with a well or a pipeline, “the insurance companies are not going to sit on their thumbs. They’re going to send out notices that if you’re within a certain area of a well or pipeline they’ll either not cover you for your losses or they’ll give you a new [higher] premium and maybe even a deductible. And that’s going to come out of the $15,000 or so in royalties an average Fort Worth homeowner can expect over the next 30 years.”
Also on the list of items homeowners weren’t told about was the gas companies’ plans to use eminent domain, when necessary, to take property for those pipelines.
That issue drew national attention to Fort Worth when Jerry Horton, an elderly Carter Avenue resident, held out against letting Chesapeake’s pipeline company, Texas Midstream Gas Services, put a pipeline under her lawn. When she couldn’t come to an agreement with the company she was threatened with eminent domain. On Aug. 21, shortly after Horton came to terms with Texas Midstream, the company filed suit to condemn property belonging to five other Carter Avenue homeowners. Interestingly, although the letters of condemnation have gone out, Chesapeake still has no permit for the Scott Avenue well the pipeline is meant to serve. That site, near Tandy Hills Park, is causing an uproar with locals.
“If you look at the site they plan to drill on over on Scott Avenue, you’ll see that they already sent a bulldozer in there and cut a road around it,” said Mike Phipps, a long-time Eastside community activist. “Susan Alanis cited Chesapeake’s driver with violating the city’s tree ordinance, but they haven’t even got a permit yet. This is the arrogance of these gas companies.”
North Texas homeowners found issues like noise, sound, light, and dust pollution from drilling rigs to be some of the earliest tear-inducing layers of the Barnett Shale experience to get peeled back. Yes, the rigs could be annoying, but landmen told them the drilling would last only a month or so. True — but many homeowners didn’t understand that the companies could come back to the same pad site repeatedly to drill new wells, so that the problems happens again and again. And the companies may also come back every few years to “re-frac” those existing wells, to keep them producing.
Water was one of the next questions, and it’s still a very big thorn in the side of those who depend on well water and aquifers. For homeowners it’s bad enough when wells dry up or the water turns brown and evil-smelling. But for ranchers and farmers, the loss of safe underground water supplies can be disastrous. In many areas groundwater protection districts monitor and regulate use and abuse of that water supply, but state law exempts wells used exclusively for oil and gas purposes from that regulation.
Three Hill County homeowners recently discovered hydrocarbons in their well water, which killed some of their animals. They can no longer use the wells, even for lawn watering. To date, gas companies almost universally deny that their operations caused any of the problems. Affected homeowners say gas company representatives have told them that the companies are prepared to tie them up in litigation for years (and for lots of money) if they sue.
One gas industry consultant said drilling companies try to prevent groundwater contamination — but accidents happen.
“Big gas companies never want to affect ground water,” said geologist Billy Caldwell. “But any time you’re dealing with drilling wells you’re going to have occasional accidents and water contamination. That’s just a fact of life. What’s important is to discover them and get those waters cleaned up. Of course, even if you do you’re liable to have that sulfur smell in the water for a good long time.”
Many local residents worry about the strain being put on freshwater supplies by the drillers’ huge needs in the fraccing process. But a potentially larger problem is what happens to the water that comes back out of the hole, full of salt and drilling chemicals.
The gas companies routinely refer to this as saltwater, but it’s not, said Jim Popp, who recently won a case against the injection well that had been approved in Wise County. “There are at least 17 different chemicals in that water, including benzene. They’re toxic waste injection wells. If they were called what they really are, no one would have let them be put in place.”
Water wells in Chico and Panola counties were contaminated by faulty injection wells, and Popp sees the potential for the same thing happening in Fort Worth. “Right now, the companies operating in Fort Worth are bringing their waste out here to the injection wells in Wise, and elsewhere, but nobody here wants that toxic waste except the owners of those injection wells,” he said. “If Fort Worth wants the gas money so badly, they should be able to live with the waste it produces.”
At the moment only one injection well has been permitted in Fort Worth; a moratorium is in place on others.
“People don’t understand is how dangerous this stuff is,” said Popp. “Several water separators have blown up in the area when lightning struck them. In another case a water tanker blew up when a driver waiting his turn to empty his truck lit a cigarette and blew up three trucks. When was the last time you saw salt water blow up?”
That same toxic water, generally held in pits at the well site until it can be trucked away, has been found in unlined pits or pits in which the lining was torn on dozens of sites throughout Tarrant and nearby counties, which means a lot of it is seeping into the ground water.
The only monitoring of drilling waste water is done by the Railroad Commission, since gas and oil companies are exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. At a congressional hearing in October 2007, U.S. Sen. Henry Waxman said that the federal drinking water law’s prohibition against putting toxic chemicals into aquifers “does not apply to the oil and gas industry … . [The] oil and gas companies can pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of fluid — containing any number of toxic chemicals — into sources of drinking water with little or no accountability.”
The civilians on the city’s gas drilling task force, like other residents dealing with the gas boom, keep hearing of new gas-related issues to worry about. As Gary Hogan overheard a couple of gas company representatives on the panel talking about a new, deeper strata of gas-bearing shale — something the industry hasn’t talked about publicly.
“I ... asked what they were talking about,” Hogan said. “They said we shouldn’t worry, that they weren’t interested in the deeper shale and so forth. Not yet, anyway. But they will be if it’s valuable, and then they’ll be back drilling again and the whole cycle will start over again.”
From now on, he said, property owners ought to check every lease contract for a clause that says it applies to only one stratum, so they can renegotiate royalties and bonuses if the drillers come back for another round.
Apparently, even the mineral rights leases — the part of the shale play that the average homeowner knows the most about — still hold some surprises.
“The average person knows nothing about mineral rights laws,” said Janovsky. “So when those landmen came into neighborhoods where people had no experience, those people didn’t know the gas companies couldn’t take their minerals by eminent domain.”
Those who don’t own the mineral rights to their property have found that they have even less to say about what happens. In Texas, subsurface mineral rights trump surface rights every time, as many homeowners have found, to their grief. And if, like Robert West, who built his house on six acres north of Eagle Mountain Lake, you come back from an out-of-town trip to find that a driller has taken use of two of your acres for a drilling pad, with no permission and no compensation, you may also find you still get to pay taxes on the whole property. West hired an attorney who convinced the appraisal district to reduce his appraisal. But the next year he had to go back and get the reduction again. And he’ll probably have to do that every year for the next 50 years.
Even on a simple mineral rights lease, homeowners may find out that that “mailbox money” they’d been hoping for has been reduced by taxes and by drillers’ fees. And sometimes it’s much more complicated. In some cases, landmen have failed to pay the promised royalties, as happened with manypeople who signed with a company called TriStar Gas Partners. It generally takes a lawyer and months of work to wrest the mineral rights away from nonpaying companies in such cases.
Then come the financial institutions, which have the right of first refusal on any money made from your property if they hold your mortgage. As a rule, if a homeowner is making payments on time, banks and mortgage companies let the gas profits go to the property owner. But some companies require the filing of a “subordination of deed” form — and charge several hundred dollars for it.
“That’s one that’s starting to come up more and more,” said Hogan. “Anything you do to your property that may affect the value, you’re supposed to notify the lender of your actions, and they say yea or nay. … And with gas wells, it’s a mess. Some mortgage companies want the royalty money paid to them; some companies are keeping the royalty money in an escrow account for clients who have a history of paying late. Some companies won’t sign off on a subordination at all, leaving the money in limbo.”
For most folks in Fort Worth, the Barnett Shale honeymoon is over, no matter what Tommy Lee Jones says from his billboards. More and more citizens are demanding answers, no longer assuming that protections are in place or that public officials will do the right thing automatically.
Hogan, who was a member of the city’s original drilling ordinance task force, said people like Don Young and Jerry Lobdill have been marginalized and treated like kooks for sounding the alarm while people were still dreaming of royalty riches, before the reality of gas drilling began to sink in.
“I think people all over the city began to wake up when those neighborhoods got together and said no to the well on 8th Avenue across from Ryan Place and just behind Berkeley,” said De Los Santos. “I think that turned the tide on understanding that mineral rights’ owners have some power.”
Her task force colleague Bradbury said both sides are at fault in the question of why more aspects of the drilling boom weren’t revealed earlier. “I don’t believe the neighborhoods were actually defrauded by the companies, but they weren’t forthcoming, either,” he said.
In smaller cities, that have been more guarded in the welcome extended to drillers, the industry is also fighting back. In June, Red Oak Energy Partners filed suit against Flower Mound over the town’s refusal to grant variances for a proposed well. Though city employees were banned from speaking with reporters because of the pending litigation, several did speak on condition that they not be named. And they said they find it incredible that the gas company thinks it has an absolute right to drill and to receive variances allowing wells to be closer than usual to buildings and homes.
“But then,” said one city official, “we knew it [a lawsuit] was going to happen somewhere. The gas companies simply believe they have absolute rights to these minerals, and things like cities and ordinances and the rights of citizens come second to those.”
The mounting controversy did prompt Moncrief to reactivate the gas drilling task force, but that experience has proved frustrating to some.
“Soon as we started talking about the problems and hazards of pipelines, the mayor took [that issue] out of the task force’s hands and said the pipeline recommendations would be made by city staff instead,” Bradbury said. The same thing happened to the issue of the drillers’ impact on roads.
As for the parts of the drilling ordinance left for the task force to deal with, some believe that the panel’s make-up is so lopsided that the industry generally gets its way on recommendations.
“I thought I could make a difference on this task force,” said Hogan. “But it’s hard to make a difference when you’ve got a deck stacked against you.”
In August some citizens suggested to the five members who are regularly voted down by gas industry reps that they simply walk away. “Some people suggested that we resign in protest, explaining that the gas industry controls the task force,” Hogan said. “But when we talked it over we thought that Mayor Moncrief might just say we walked from the table and have his staff write up the ordinance. So we decided to stay.”
De Los Santos said the task force “should have had voting power resting with the citizens on the panel, with the experts bring there to give input. … But that’s not how it was formed. So I think you can look forward to a minority report from the citizens who represent the people of Fort Worth, and in it we will make the recommendations that we feel should go into the gas drilling ordinance.”
A minority report could still have an impact, she said. “I think the council will have to take it into consideration if our voices are echoed by community leaders and the public. The people associated with CREDO are highly visible and influential. Three of them — Cathy Hirt, Clyde Picht, and Juan Rangel — are former council members. If they and the presidents of neighborhood associations and the League of Women Voters come to council and say they agree with what the minority report recommends, I don’t think the council will have any choice but to take it under advisement.”
State Rep. Lon Burnam is skeptical that the council will actually buck the drillers. “The public needs to understand that any time you have a 500-pound gorilla in the room — and that gorilla is the gas companies — you don’t have to spell it out to the city council. There is an implied threat that if you don’t do things the gorilla’s way, you’ll need to hit the highway.”
So do those seeking stronger regulation just give up?
“No,” Burnam said. “In Fort Worth the gorilla doesn’t always win. ... But this is a runaway train, and it is always harder to stop a runaway train than it is to prevent it in the first place. And right now we’ve got a mayor who is totally aligned with the gas industry.”
He said he is talking to other legislators about a package of bills to be introduced next year to deal with several aspects of the Barnett Shale.
Young isn’t feeling particularly optimistic these days.
“What effect will the injection wells have on our water?” he said. “Will places like Carter Avenue be turned into little ghettos? Will we wind up looking like a Rust Belt city once all the wells are in place? What about a major accident? And what about the physical and psychological impacts on people? What will the impact be on your health from having to put up with more noise, more pollution, more trucks on the road? The only escape will be the cultural center of the city. Around it will be an industrial nightmare.”
Hogan said as more and more is revealed about the gas boom’s profound effects, “the more it looks like Don Young with his ‘Just Say No to Urban Drilling’ was right all along.
“Unfortunately, it’s too late for that. It’s here now,” he said. “But let’s do this in the right way. And I don’t think it’s too late for that, to make the companies do their drilling in a way that will minimize impact on health, safety and the environment. If we don’t, who’s going to want to live here? It’ll be a total loss for the average citizen.”
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