Appalachian Basin

Tilting at Wellheads

I learned long ago, in my consulting work, that NIMBY’s can never ever be satisfied.  No argument, no fact, no logic and no reason can dissuade them from their conviction everything should be done somewhere other than their backyard.  When one attack is thwarted, they simply open a new front.  That was the case with a senior housing project I advocated in the late 1970’s and never in the three decades since then have I seen it otherwise.  A NIMBY is a NIMBY forevermore.

We see this on display with the anti-gas special interests, who are now focused on “health impacts” associated with natural gas, as they desperately search for meaning in their quixotic battle against natural gas – a clean burning fuel that can make us energy independent and produce economic benefits to the area with absolutely minimal impact on the landscape.  Once again, though, the facts intrude on their emotional yearning for a wooden stake they can drive through the heart of natural gas.

A Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) study of the Barnett Shale region, for example, found ozone levels declined with dramatic increases in gas drilling.  The following chart tells the story:

Notice how the ozone went down by 15% while gas production increased by 4,224% over the decade surveyed!

The TCEQ also found the following:

After several months of operation, state-of-the-art, 24-hour air monitors in the Barnett Shale area are showing no levels of concern for any chemicals. This reinforces our conclusion that there are no immediate health concerns from air quality in the area, and that when they are properly managed and maintained, oil and gas operations do not cause harmful excess air emissions.

Out of all the samples taken, the TCEQ has only found two instances of benzene exceeding short-term levels of concern. Subsequent sampling at these two locations has shown low levels of benzene.

The annual benzene averages from Augo-GC air monitors in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Barnett Share area are substantially lower than the long-term air monitoring comparison value (AMCV) of 1.4 ppbv.

In order to comprehend the issue of air emissions in the Barnett Shale area, it is important to understand two numbers that are used to assess the potential for adverse health effects from exposure to benzene: 180 ppbv (parts per billion by volume) and 1.4 ppbv. The first number, 180 ppbv, is the short-term air monitoring comparison value for benzene. This number is conservative and it is unlikely that adverse health effects would occur if someone were to be exposed to this concentration of benzene for a short period of time (one hour). The second number, 1.4 ppbv, is the long-term air monitoring comparison value for benzene. Someone exposed to this level 24 hours a day for 70 years would not be expected to experience adverse health effects.

In the spring of 2009, the TCEQ installed automated gas chromatograph (AutoGC) monitors in two locations that are surrounded by natural gas operations—the town of DISH, in Denton County, and near Eagle Mountain Lake, in Tarrant County. These monitors operate around the clock, measuring levels of more than 45 VOCs, including benzene. After months of continuous operation, there have been no chemicals measured above levels of concern. The results from the monitors are posted hourly on the TCEQ website, at Barnett Shale Geological Area.

The same holds true of two already existing fixed-site VOC monitors in Fort Worth and Denton, which have shown no increase in benzene levels as natural gas operations in the Barnett Shale area have grown over the years.

Meanwhile, the River Reporter article (see link above) reports a $125,000 grant is being sought through the PEW Charitable Trust and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for a “study of the potential health impacts of gas drilling (in) the Delaware River Basin.  The Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is believed to be only the third of its kind in the nation and, if approved, the UDC would be invited to become a stakeholder in the process.”  The fact there is nothing to study other than a handful of assessment wells already completed and this proposed study will simply speculate about the potential impacts tells us precisely what this is all about – ginning up new NIMBY arguments against gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin.  The study will simply be a new front in the battle – a source of rich quotes about what could happen and anything but the real evidence, which is already available.  The two foundations from which funds are being sought regularly finance this kind of anti-development nonsense and aren’t going to fund this project either unless the outcome is clear from the outset.   It’s exactly what NIMBY’s do – tilt at windmills (wellheads in this case).

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