May 30, 2011
I have a member of my North Texas community who frequently writes to the Letters to the Editor column often accusing the President, the Democrats and liberals of every social and economic ill we come face to face with and many that are not so apparent. Such people are to be expected and suffered in Red State Texas and in a Country where Republicans tend to win victories by no less than 60% of the vote. It is some relief however to watch and read their positions on issues as they serve as comic relief and show what a bad education will produce.
This woman I refer to, Alice Gore, always uses an imaginary character she calls “Bubba” to describe her views as if it served to show that basic, down-to-earth folk can see simple truths to complex issues. She fails to understand that to many of us, Bubba comes across as a more simple-minded rube who limits his knowledge to the very small world of his/her making. In her letter to the editor today, Gore’s Bubba character tells us, as he has on more than one occasion, that high gas prices are the result of “super-strict environmental controls”. At the heart of all this is an agenda by people who align themselves with “rabid environmental groups” like the Sierra Club and of course, liberal Democrats.
I have learned that Ms. Gore, aka “Bubba”, lives on several acres in a relatively tranquil country environment just south of town and apparently doesn’t suffer as greatly from the failures of industries that pollute our air and water as some of her neighbors do, specifically those who chose to allow natural gas drilling on their large estates or are victim to wells near their property. I’m sure if she had, she would be the type who would be amongst those demanding that the government agencies responsible for oversight of these industries do something to correct this problem.
In a community less than 10 miles as the crow flies from Ms. Gore is Dish, Texas. Dish gained national notoriety in Josh Fox’s Oscar-nominated film “Gasland”. Dish has about 11 gas compression stations in close proximity to each other and equally close to the small number of people who live there. When the state’s Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) failed to act aggressively on concerns with Dish citizens about potential health hazards related to these gas compression stations, the Mayor of Dish got authorization to spend 15 percent of its $70,000 annual budget on a private environmental consultant.
Their findings were dangerously startling as it showed extremely high levels of both carcinogens and neurotoxins. When this made the news state-wide the TCEQ finally did respond and they also found “the presence of benzene, a potentially cancer-causing toxin detected near the compressors”.
The effects of these toxins to their community, who had no history of serious health issues up until the time that these wells were drilled, impacted the residents of Dish in remarkable ways. One such family are the Collins.
“Megan Collins, a 32-year-old pediatric nurse, lived with her husband, a firefighter, and their two small children downwind from the compressors. She started having unexplainable symptoms: headaches, dizziness, blackouts, muscle contractions. She got test after test while her condition worsened, but she never really worried about the compression stations. ‘We just always constantly heard the noise and constantly smelled the fumes, Ms. Collins stated in a report by public radio NPR. But every time we would ask, they would always just say that it was normal’.” (Health Issues Follow natural Gas Drilling in Texas by Josh Burnett, NPR, 11/3/09)
But for Ms. Gore’s, this is not a concern because she and her family have not felt the ill effects of some of the gas wells and compression stations just a few miles south of them along U.S. Hwy. 377. This tends to be the case to where some areas, depending on their location and how often wind circulation shifts, are not as easily affected by leaks at compression stations and the well heads themselves. Ms. Gore would be more willing to buy into the claims of natural gas spokespeople like Terri Lawson with Enbridge Energy who says their company is “in compliance with state regulations. We are concerned about this issue, Ms. Enbridge declares. We are investigating it fully. We have been responsive. We’ll continue to be responsive to requests from Mayor Tillman and our neighbors.”
The key factor from Ms. Lawson’s claim is that they are “in compliance with state regulations”. This fact seems to presume that Texas and it’s oversight agency of oil and natural gas well, the TCEQ, have amply mandated and enforce rules that prevent problems of the nature found in Dish as well as other areas throughout the state.
In the NPR report it points out that “most of the concern in Texas is focused on air emissions more than noise, which is scarcely regulated in rural areas. The worry is that compression stations may individually meet state and federal regulations for air emissions, but what’s the cumulative effect of a complex like the one at Dish?”
Al Armendariz an environmental engineer at Southern Methodist University in Dallas says that “If you were to aggregate the emissions from all of these 11 compressor engines and all of the associated piping and meters and valves and everything else at these facilities, you can get a significant source of emissions, hundreds of tons per year.”
Mr. Armendariz wrote a widely circulated report earlier this year. “He estimated gas production, processing, and transmission in the Barnett Shale produces nearly as much air pollution as all the region’s vehicle traffic. State regulators validated his numbers.” And yet the state has taken no quantitative action to ameliorate the problem in a state where gas and oil industry lobbyists have tight connections with Republican majorities in both the state House and Senate along with a very industry-friendly Governor Rick Perry
To highlight this is the state’s attempt to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce rules that govern CO2 emissions in the state. Every other state has accepted the EPA’s authority on this but Rick Perry and Republicans legislators are trying to gain points with the extreme Tea Party elements in the state rather demonstrating a legitimate concern for its citizens.
Sharon Wilson who keeps Texans in the Barnett Shale updated about issues central to natural gas wells and their fracking practices on her Bluedaze website illustrates the inefficiencies of TCEQ. Last year Sharon studied records that showed complaints to the TCEQ from people within only 6 counties in the Barnett Shale; Tarrant, Denton, Wise, Johnson, Parker, Hood and Erath. Denton is my county as it is with Ms. Gore’s Bubba. Of some nearly 900 complaints between January through July 23rd Sharon could only find 3 violations cited by the TCEQ, or as she has stated, “the TCEQ found nothing wrong 99% of the time.
Ms. Gore and her demonstrable “Bubba” mentality reflects a mental block that wants to promote ideology over research and science. To express as she does that policies enacted by the Obama administration are responsible for high prices ignores the fact that higher gas prices were in place while George Bush was still in office in 2008 and the weight the financial crisis was creating havoc in all of the markets.
The higher gas prices, then as they are now, are in large part due to market forces the President and liberal Democrats have no power over and are unwilling to regulate. In a letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Better Markets, Inc., a nonprofit organization that promotes the public interest in the capital and commodity markets, including in particular the rule making process associated with the Dodd‐Frank Act, validated through extensive analysis and empirical data, the following facts:
- speculation in commodity markets has dramatically increased and is excessive;
- excessive speculation has caused increased volatility and increased prices in the future markets;
- price increases in the futures markets directly affect physical market prices and, thereby, have increased prices in the underlying commodities;
- while increased volatility and prices have increased the need for hedging by physical producers and purchases, the increased costs to such hedgers as a result of the above have caused physical producers and purchasers to hedge less. SOURCE
The goofy notion that we as a state or even as a nation can control global oil markets is as naive as it is absurd. To attempt to do so would also run against the “free market” values of people like Ms. Gore that takes a rigid hands-off approach of governments over private enterprises.
Ms. Gore wants to compel those who support serious enforcement of existing regulations and improve what is lacking to sufficiently do this to identify themselves with environmental groups in order to “give the readers an idea of what [their] real agenda is.” Surely she’s not suggesting that environmentalist and liberals seek to intentionally raise gas prices that they too must deal with? How would she connect such illogical conclusions with any reality based hypothesis? That of course would be the comic relief aspect of reading such people in the Letters column.
But I for one would gladly show my alliances with people like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. I would also ask that people like Ms. Gore who oppose such groups show their allegiance to the fossil fuels industry by revealing how much stock they hold in the Petrol Industry.