In the interest of fostering dialogue on the UT Arlington’s gas well program, I invited Don Young, a Fort Worth conservationist and outspoken critic of urban gas drilling, to offer his perspective on the program’s environmental significance.
Young is director of Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Ordinance. His commentary follows. To see replies — or to post your own — click on the word Comments in the line below the headline.
The year, 2007, will likely go down in local history as, the Year of the Barnett Shale.
But getting at the riches of the Barnett Shale also means allowing unprecedented industrial activity on a grand scale inside our communities, which should, in turn, mean a contentious battle to stop it.
But that has not been the case. Yet.
A massive “greenwashing” ad campaign by gas drillers combined with an endorsement from the only daily newspaper and the flagrant conflict of interest by elected officials seems to have arrested the good sense that most people normally have.
Money and rumors of it may temporarily shade out common sense but that doesn’t dilute the realities of how urban gas drilling adversely affects the environment and human health. What amazes me most, however, is how an institution of higher learning fell victim to greed over prudent judgment.
When UTA regents decided to allow industrial gas drilling on campus they opened the door to well deserved criticism. For starters, how can a university with a philosophy to “go green” justify peddling in hydrocarbons? How can well educated men and women not recognize the direct role they are playing in misleading and confusing its neighbors, the general public and many UTA supporters? Why don’t they realize that by attempting to hammer a square peg into a round hole they lose hard won credibility? It appears they unwisely are attempting to have it both ways by melding two conflicting philosophies.
The very idea of a Sustainability Committee rings hollow in the face of UTA’s actions. Furthermore, the timing of the creation of the Sustainability Committee in October 2007 has the appearance of trying to cover up a bad deed with an ostensibly good one.
For example, the Mission Statement attests, “the University’s commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship.” Any middle-schooler would be able to detect the direct conflict with such a statement and the production of dirty fossil fuel on campus. By trying to have it both ways, you disgrace yourselves, the university and insult the community at large. The public expects more from UTA.
By misrepresenting the school you have opened the door to criticism and questions, I ask that you consider the following comments and concerns raised by members of the community who are now forced to share in your folly.
-A significant new source of localized air pollution from increased diesel truck traffic and other drilling equipment. (When Rusty Ward VP BD claimed they do worse with ‘everyday’ UTA activities, he seemed to imply that somehow justified adding more pollution from drilling.)
-Increased safety hazards from large truck traffic in a small historical residential neighborhood.
-Various carcinogens entering the atmosphere during every stage of production, including, flaring. (The myth of “Clean burning natural gas” is exposed when the production of it is taken into account.)
-Increased air pollution during the burn off phase that happen each time the wells are refraced.
-Where will the toxic water from your drill site end up? Who will be affected? (Read the distinguished essay, What Lies Beneath, for chilling answers to those questions.)
-Damage to one of the last stands of old oak trees at a nearby city park?
-Increased truck traffic on an already clogged South Cooper Street.
-The very real risk of a catastrophic event during drilling/fracing – Site #1 is within 200 feet of the playground of a YMCA Children Center.
-The close proximity of homes near the drilling site adds a significant new and long term risk of a catastrophic accident that would devastate surrounding neighborhoods during at all stages of drilling.
-See above as related to understandable psychological fears by immediate neighbors who have no choice but face the risk and their fears or move.
-Risk of pollution of water ways, local wells and the aquifer; UTA’s drill sites are in close proximity to a tributary that runs into Johnson that sits directly on top of the Trinity Woodbine Aquifer.
-Unsustainable use (waste?) of clean water for drilling purposes; irreplaceable water that the public is urged to use wisely and even ration.
-All of the above ’short term’ safety and pollution issues that will be present each time the wells are revisited – we all know that this will be long term, reportedly up to 100 years.
Any sane person who carefully considers these concerns and the decision by a university “committed to green initiatives” to drill on campus would come to the conclusion that 2007 and 2008 might also be respectively labeled the Year of the Ostrich and the Year of Foolishness.