4

What Texas Drillers and Regulators Learned From the Barnett Shale

^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

The development of North Texas' Barnett Shale did not go as smoothly as gas companies had hoped. The flaming water in Parker County, elevated levels of benzene in DISH, elevated rates of breast cancer in Flower Mound, and any number of other reports contributed to the perception among the general public that fracking is a dirty business and hazardous to neighbors' health. At the very least, the whole thing was a PR disaster.

That seems to be what the industry and regulators have taken away from their experience in the Barnett. Over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle explored how tactics changed when development began in South Texas' Eagle Ford Shale.

"I think the oil companies learned some lessons. The Railroad Commission learned some lessons from what happened in the Barnett shale, and we worked a lot harder," Railroad Commissioner David Porter told the paper.

The circumstances surrounding the two formations are different. Drilling in North Texas is centered in heavily populated suburbs, while the affected area in South Texas is predominately rural. That at least partly explains why there were 329 complaints filed last year with the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality for the Barnett area, while only 45 for the Eagle Ford, the Chronicle reported.

But it's also the result of lessons learned from the Barnett. They made minor changes to the way they operate, according to the article, such as reducing the amount of water used. Mostly, though, it seems to be a more coordinated PR.

"The perception was that the oil and gas industry was completely unregulated and could do whatever they wanted to," Porter told the Chronicle. "Which wasn't true, but if you're not telling people what you're doing, that [perception] can grow."

Actually, there's a good deal of truth to that, but, of course, it's not amenable to drillers when that's what the public believes.

Porter established a task force in South Texas in hopes of avoiding the headaches from the Barnett, highlighting the economic impacts of drilling and downplaying the health risks. So far, the evidence indicates it's working. If only they had thought of that here.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.