Hydraulic fracturing is a process used in nine out of 10 natural gas wells in the United States, where millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to break apart the rock and release the gas. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) involves the injection of millions gallons of fresh water, sand, and more than 600 chemicals – including known carcinogens and toxins – at high pressure down and across into horizontally drilled wells as far as 10,000 feet below the surface. The pressurized mixture causes the shale rock to crack. These fissures are held open by the same sand particles so that natural gas from the shale can flow up the well.
What are our concerns?
Contamination: During this process, methane gas and toxic chemicals can potentially escape and contaminate nearby groundwater.
Methane concentrations are 17x higher in drinking-water wells near fracturing sites than in normal wells, according to a study by Duke University.
Only 30-50% of the fracturing fluid is recovered. The rest is left in the ground and is not biodegradable.
Waste fluid left in open air pits to evaporate, release harmful VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) into the atmosphere, contributing to air pollution.
Drinking Water: There have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination in Texas next to areas of gas drilling as well as cases of sensory, respiratory, and neurological damage due to ingested contaminated water.
Earthquakes: Hydraulic fracturing sometimes causes induced seismicity or earthquakes. The magnitude of these events is usually too small to be detected at the surface, although tremors attributed to fluid injection into disposal wells have been large enough to have often been felt by people, and to have caused property damage and possibly injuries
Blowouts and Explosions: When exposed to oxygen rich air, hydrocarbons are highly combustible leading to flash fires and explosions. During hydraulic fracturing perforation, the final stage of well completion, a perforating gun detonates a series of targeted explosions, punches holes through the casing and creates the fissures from which gas is extracted, providing a potential ignition source. During completion, hydrocarbons contained in high-pressure shale formations can kick, or flow into the wellbore through the rig platform, leading to loss of well control, or blowout.
Oil and gas workers risk the imminent dangers of explosions and flash fires by nature of working with highly flammable vapors released from wells near ignition sources — open flames, lighting, cigarettes, welding tools and frictional heat. Between 2003 and 2008, the BLS reported 53 fatalities due to explosions and 38 to fire.
In April 2015, RGISC became informed that HB40, along with SB1165, was moving through the Texas Legislature. Unfortunately, the Texas House passed HB40 and SB1165 – removing local control from any city that wants to regulate horizontal drilling and fracking within City limits. With that passed, there was plans to start drilling and fracking in some of Laredo’s residential areas immediately. Within a month, the Laredo City Council was already voting on whether or not to grant 2 permits that would allow horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking to take place inside City Limits. Green Ranch Subdivision – home to nearly 350 families – was the targeted residential area.
The Laredo City Council, led by Councilman George Altgelt, postponed the permits and sent them back to staff for closer study. In a rushed move, the following week the 2 permits were put up for vote again. Many residents and their supporters showed up and pleaded their case to table the items until more information was obtained. They wanted conditions to be added to the permits to safeguard their safety, property values, health and environment. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Fearful of a lawsuit, and the new reach of HB 40, the City Council granted the permits. However, nearly two dozen conditions were placed on these two permits.
Unfortunately, in less than a month, the City Council voted to approve two permits to allow horizontal drilling and fracking inside City limits. The wells are planned be 2000 feet from the Green Ranch subdivision and fracked about 25 times.
It was not a complete loss since nearly two dozen conditions were placed onto the permits. The families of Green Ranch and their supporters have become a fierce and formidable group. Their fight has done a tremendous amount to educate the City Council and other people in Laredo about this troubling issue. They are to be commended for their bravery and fearlessness.
With the help of several attorneys, they were able to negotiate nearly 2 dozen conditions to be added onto the permit.
Rio Grande International Study Center 1 West End Washington St. Bldg P-11, Laredo, Texas