What a Ban on Fracking in Denton Could Mean For the Rest of Texas

A rig contracted by Apache Corp drills a horizontal well in a search for oil and natural gas in the Wolfcamp shale located in the Permian Basin in West Texas. A successful petition in Denton could bring fracking bans to communities around the state.

Terry Wade / Reuters /STRINGER /LANDOV

A rig contracted by Apache Corp drills a horizontal well in a search for oil and natural gas in the Wolfcamp shale located in the Permian Basin in West Texas. A successful petition in Denton could bring fracking bans to communities around the state.

Come elections in November, the city of Denton could be split between two very different futures.

The Denton Drilling Awareness Group (DAG) recently got enough signatures on a petition to place an ordinance banning fracking within city limits on local ballots. Though other communities in Texas have passed restrictions on fracking, a moratorium on drilling activity within Denton could spur the rise of similar legislation across the state.

If the ban passes it will likely provoke a precedent-setting legal battle that would help clarify the authority of local governments over oil and gas operations in Texas. Continue Reading

Let’s Talk About ‘The Boom’

New Book Looks at How Fracking Changed Everything

Russell Gold, author of a new book on fracking, says that this drilling revolution is "transforming the United States."

Joel Salcido

Russell Gold, author of a new book on fracking, says that this drilling revolution is "transforming the United States."

THE-BOOM-684x1024If you ever talk about the surge in oil and gas drilling in Texas and the rest of the country by calling it a “boom,” you might upset someone in the oil and gas industry. That’s because if you call it a “boom,” that means at some point there’s going to be a “bust.”

So Wall Street Journal energy reporter Russell Gold may furrow a few brows in the industry with his new book, ‘The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World.’

“This revolution is transforming the United States,” Gold writes. “To a remarkable extent, this once-obscure oil-field technique defines the nation’s economic and environmental future.” A hundred new wells are drilled and fracked every day, he writes.

Gold sat down with David Brown of KUT’s Texas Standard to talk about why this boom is different, and some lessons for the oil and gas industry going forward. Take a listen:

‘The Boom’ hits bookshelves (both virtual and real) this week.

Giddy Up! Now You Can Buy Your Very Own Oil Well

A jointly-owned oil rig atop the Eagle Ford shale south of San Antonio.

Larissa Liska

A jointly-owned oil rig atop the Eagle Ford shale south of San Antonio.

But That Could Spell Trouble for Texas’ Drilling Boom

From the first geyser to burst from the salt domes of Spindletop to the Texas fracking pioneer George Mitchell, who helped unlock massive oil and gas deposits in shale, the Lone Star State has always been willing to gamble on drilling. And the bets are big. The latest boom has been mostly the work of companies and investors with access to plenty of capital — it’s estimated each oil well in the Eagle Ford shale of South Texas costs between $5 and $10 million to drill.

Now, with a minimum investment of $80,000, one Texas company is offering you your very own oil well. Oil Boom USA, a subsidiary of Texas oil and gas company Nakoma Petroleum, is inviting investors into the oil well game. Why? Because it’s an “unequaled tax shelter” and “exciting and fun,” according to the company’s website.

But opening up drilling to more than just oil and gas companies could signal trouble for the industry. As Michael Webber, Deputy Director at the University of Texas’s Energy Institute, explains to KUT’s Texas Standard host David Brown, oil well investing is “pretty good on the way up, but it could be pretty bad on the way down.” Continue Reading

Originally Meant for New Mexico, Diverted Nuclear Waste Arrives in West Texas

The first in a series of radioactive waste shipments arrives in Andrews County on Wednesday, April 2.

(Waste Control Specialists)

The first in a series of radioactive waste shipments arrives in Andrews County on Wednesday, April 2.

A truckload of radioactive waste that was originally meant to wind up at a storage site in Carlsbad, New Mexico arrived in West Texas today.

It was just the first of many that will be crossing the state line into Andrews Countyover the coming months.

The waste was initially headed for theWaste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, but that site’s been shuttered for over a month after what officials have described as a small leak contaminated 17 workers. Continue Reading

When It Comes To Water Restrictions, How Far Should Fort Worth Go?

Perth On Target For Worst Drought Ever Recorded

Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

From KERA News: 

Update 10 p.m. Tuesday: The Fort Worth City Council has delayed for one week a vote to permanently restrict outdoor watering to twice a week.

Council member W. B. Zimmerman asked for the additional time to educate the public about proposed conservation plans.

Sal Espino, who represents District 2, was opposed to the delay. He said: “I would be in favor of moving forward with this ordinance, imperfect as it may seem to some, and then later changing it or tweaking, because we’ve already been doing twice per week watering.”

Original story: Since last June, Fort Worth has been restricting outdoor watering to twice a week because of drought conditions. Those measures may become permanent if the City Council adopts a proposed water ordinance Tuesday night.

But as water usage is down, water rates are going up. Continue Reading

Texas Governor Wants to Make the State a Home for High-Level Radioactive Waste

Cooling towers of a nuclear power plant in Grohnde, Germany. An interim charge for the Texas legislature could change the United States' management of nuclear waste.

Frank Map DPA/Landov

Cooling towers of a nuclear power plant in Grohnde, Germany. Texas Governor Rick Perry says he wants the state to come up with a solution for disposing of or storing spent nuclear fuel.

The storage and disposal of high-level radioactive waste is a tricky process, both from a safety and political point of view. As a result, that waste is now piling up around the country with nowhere to go. And Texas Governor Rick Perry is wondering if perhaps the Lone Star State could give it a home.

In a letter to the leaders of the state Senate and House, which you can read below, Perry says that Texas has “no choice but to begin looking for a safe and secure solution for HLW [high-level radioactive waste] in Texas.” Perry attached a 49-page report he commissioned from a state environmental agency that says that a facility for waste in Texas is “not only feasible but could be highly successful.”

The letter, first reported by Asher Price in the Austin American-Statesman today, lays out what have become familiar arguments from those hoping to make Texas a home for the nation’s unwanted isotopes: the federal government isn’t following through on its promise to take care of it, states paid the feds to fulfill that promise and got cheated, and Texas can do it safely (and, it would follow, profitably).  Continue Reading

Are Drilling Waste Pits a Threat to Texas Groundwater?

Drilling for oil & gas can generate thousands of barrels of waste per well

Dave Fehling / StateImpact Texas

Drilling for oil & gas can generate thousands of barrels of waste per well

In one of the hottest plays for natural gas drilling, Bob Patterson wonders if what the drilling industry leaves behind will come back to haunt the community.

“It’s just a ticking time bomb before we have major aquifer contamination,” Patterson told StateImpact.

Patterson manages the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District. His office monitors the drilling industry in North Texas, home to the Barnett Shale, which is producing some of the greatest volumes of natural gas in the country.

Reserve Pits

Patterson’s fear is about what are called reserve pits. The earthen pits are dug on the site of a drilling rig. Into the pits go thousands of barrels-worth of drilling waste. The waste comes back up out of the well as the drill cuts thousand of feet down into the earth. The waste can be a muddy, oily mix of saltwater, sand, and drilling fluids and can contain chemicals and diesel fuel.

Continue Reading

How Researchers Are Recording the Sound of a Massive Bat Die-Off

USFWS biologist holds little brown bat.

Photo Courtesy of USFWS/Ann Froschauer

This species of Little Brown Bat was once common in the Northeast, but has been devastated by white-nose syndrome.

If you’ve ever tried to evict an unwelcome bat from your home, you know it can be tricky. If you haven’t, imagine trying to coax an agile mouse into a laundry basket. Now imagine that mouse has wings. Now imagine it has wings and sonar.

Chris Corben, a bat expert, doesn’t like the “mice with wings” analogy. He says bats are more like elephants (they have very low birth rates, he explains). But he agrees that they are difficult to catch, and it’s because of that “sonar.”

“You can’t just put a trap up in a field and expect to get anything,” says Corben. “Because of the bats’ echolocation system, they’re remarkably good at avoiding the traps.”


That “echolocation” is the way bats get around. They’re active mostly at night, when they can’t rely on their eyesight. So they send out a little “chirp.” Then they wait for that sound to bounce back at them. It tells them what’s nearby, or where they might find a tasty bug to eat. Continue Reading

Texas Wind Power Breaks Another Record

Wind turbines in West Texas help produce record amounts of electricity for the state.

Mose Buchele/StateImpact Texas

Wind turbines in West Texas help produce record amounts of electricity for the state.

Another record was set for wind power generation this week, according to the group that manages much of the state’s power. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says Wednesday evening, wind power generation on the grid reached10,296 megawatts (MW), or enough to power 5 million Texas homes during times of regular demand. That beat the previous record of actual generation by 600 megawatts, roughly the equivalent of a medium-sized fossil fuel power plant.

A few hours later, early Thursday morning, almost a third of the power on the grid also came from wind power, primarily from turbines in the Panhandle and along the Gulf Coast. It’s the third time this month that wind generation broke previous records.

ERCOT credits both a breezy week and the recent addition of a transmission line project known as the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) that was designed to bring wind power from West Texas and the Panhandle to consumers in Central and North Texas. Continue Reading

A Killer of Bats Inches Towards Texas

A little brown bat found in a New York cave exhibits fungal growth on its muzzle, ears and wings.

Photo by Al Hicks, NY Dept of Environ. Conservation.

A little brown bat found in a New York cave exhibits fungal growth on its muzzle, ears and wings.

Before Winifred Frick enters a bat cave in Wisconsin, she and her colleagues strip to their underwear and wipe themselves down with Lysol. When they leave, they bag everything up and wash it with Lysol as well.

“Spores can definitely get on peoples’ boots or pants or whatever, so it’s been really important that cavers, as well as researchers, do decontamination,” Frick, a bat researcher and adjunct professor at UC Santa Cruz, says.

She’s talking about the spores of a fungus that’s responsible for the deaths of millions of bats. It’s the cause of “white-nose syndrome,” so-called because of the white growth that appears on the noses of infected hibernating bats.


Researchers are still unclear about how the fungus kills bats, but it appears to wake them from hibernation, leaving them malnourished. Continue Reading

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