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Natural Gas Flowback: How the Texas Natural Gas Boom Affects Health and Safety

How the Texas gas boom affects community health and safety

Published: April 14, 2011

By: Earthworks

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In the last decade, hydraulic fracturing and other new drilling technologies have turned North Texas into the leading shale gas-producing area in the country. But the drilling boom has brought with it serious concerns over the health and environmental impacts of an industry that uses large volumes of toxic chemicals in close proximity to Texas communities. The search for deposits of shale gas is spreading to other regions of Texas, raising the question of whether the state is adequately protecting its citizens and its resources.

Is the state adequately protecting its citizenry?  This investigation by the Earthworks’ Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project concludes that the answer is “No.”

We have compiled and collected data on the serious health effects of gas drilling, hydraulic fracturing (e.g., fracking) and production on Texans throughout the Barnett Shale; water contamination and depletion; air pollution and other impacts. We have also documented that the state’s present regulations, laws and enforcement policies are far too weak. Not only are the resources for dealing with the health and environmental impacts of gas production insufficient to meet the scale of the boom, but state regulators consistently downplay the risks, take sides with industry against landowners, and respond to complaints feebly, if at all. This report presents case studies of how this denial, complacency and bureaucratic inaction are disrupting the lives of families and communities.

Too often citizen testimonies of health effects or evidence gathered by citizens, as in this report, are dismissed as anecdotal evidence and as long as each case is treated as an isolated incident the larger pattern is ignored. But when so many citizens across almost two dozen counties report similar complaints and symptoms associated with gas drilling, something is wrong. More thorough research is needed to determine if drilling and fracking can be done more safely and under what conditions and locations they should or should not be permitted. At the same time immediate action is warranted to protect public health and the environment.

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