Texas

Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Ask the Candidates: Should Texas Test Groundwater Before Fracking?

A Cabot Oil and Gas natural gas drill is viewed at a hydraulic fracturing site on January 17, 2012 in Springville, Pennsylvania.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A Cabot Oil and Gas natural gas drill is viewed at a hydraulic fracturing site on January 17, 2012 in Springville, Pennsylvania.

If you know what the water in your wells was like before drilling started on your land, you have a better understanding of whether drilling has changed the water. That’s the basic idea behind “baseline testing” of groundwater before drilling starts.

That’s also one reason why some states, like Wyoming, have enacted rules based on recommendations by the American Petroleum Institute to require baseline testing of water quality and nearby water wells before drilling operations begin at well sites.

Texas has no such requirements.

As part of our candidates questionnaire we asked all of the people running for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission – the agency that regulates the Texas oil and gas industry – whether they think Texas should enact such requirements. Six of the nine candidates responses are below, all of the candidates that responded are in favor of baseline testing. Republican candidates Malachi BoyulsWayne Christian and Ryan Sitton did not respond.

States like Wyoming have enacted rules based on recommendations by the American Petroleum Institute to require baseline testing of water quality and nearby water wells before drilling operations begin at well sites. Do you think Texas should enact such requirements? 

Becky Berger, Republican: I feel personal responsibility is our greatest asset, land/mineral owners should have a test run when they sign a lease to drill on their property and have a copy sent to the company and themselves. This would act as a baseline and the company would never be in a questionable position of proving the test was legitimate. If they use a university facility, like Texas A & M or Texas Tech, that have research departments that do this sort of testing then that facility would keep the original record on file. We could possibly provide a legislative mandate to keep the information in a database for future reference.

Steve Brown, Democrat: Yes.

Dale Henry, Democrat: YES! Base line facts regarding existing water quality are a logical and basic ;step to protect the pubic and the landowner. Periodic testing by the company after a well is completed and put in production should never be less than six months. Depending on the area, the number of test wells and depth to check water quality should be specific.

Martina Salinas, Green: Since the Railroad Commission was first formed to protect the concerns of Texas citizens against corporate forces, requiring baseline testing for water quality in Texas before drilling operations the Railroad Commission will be continuing in its original purpose. It seems current reports cite well casing failures are the actual cause of water contamination as reported in Pennsylvania, I believe Texas would benefit from more site inspections. Water is a finite resource that needs to be protected to ensure the prosperity of Texas.

Mark Miller (Libertarian): Baseline testing would seem to be a prudent activity for monitoring groundwater quality under all circumstances, not just in the vicinity of well drilling. The Texas Water Development Board already has a baseline monitoring program in place. I would support the expansion of this program if it is inadequate. I would also expect prudent well site operators to do their own monitoring, if for no other reason than to be in a position to deal with any claims of groundwater contamination caused by their activities.

Jason Kute, Libertarian: Yes. Residents are protected from improper drilling, while companies are protected from fraudulent claims.

This is the final installment in a series of questions for the candidates for Railroad Commissioner. Part 1 asked if the name of the commission should be changed to better reflect its mission; Part 2 asked the candidates for their positions on a variety of reforms for the commission. Part 3 asked the candidates what the Railroad Commission should do about manmade earthquakes linked to oil and gas drilling activity. Part 4 asked the candidates what the Railroad Commission should do about pipeline companies using eminent domain to take land in Texas.  
You can read more about the Railroad Commission here
Participants: Becky Berger, RepublicanSteve Brown, DemocratDale Henry, DemocratJason Kute, LibertarianMark Miller, LibertarianMartina Salinas, Green PartyRepublican candidates Malachi BoyulsWayne Christian and Ryan Sitton did not respond.

Comments

  • http://www.environtechlab.com NABL Certified Lab

    According to the U.S. earth science Survey, a volume of groundwater equivalent to two-thirds of the water command in Lake Erie has been depleted from the Ogallala since 1940.

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