Black east Fort Worth residents forced to deal with fracking noise and pollution at Total site
Last week, we wrote about the incident at Total’s Mount Tabor site in east Fort Worth where equipment emitted loud noises and black smoke, and unknown levels of emissions as no one–not the city, state, or Total–is monitoring the air at any of these sites. The fumes made resident Teena James, who recorded the video of the event, sick enough to vomit and call an ambulance.
While the incident was bad enough, a complaint filed by residents with the TCEQ told how air and noise pollution from the site has been impacting residents in this mostly black neighborhood for months.
The Fort Worth Report’s Haley Samsel has written an in-depth article outlining exactly what these residents have been going through and how industry-friendly zoning and monitoring policies have forced them to endure health-harming fracking pollution.
Since January neighbors living near the Mount Tabor site have heard loud “booms” all hours of the night while Total drills four new wells, and experienced dust and other pollution issues.
It took black smoke and a video of the horrific incident on Facebook to get the city to pay attention to the issues at the drilling site.
Arlington residents have experienced similar problems with noise, black smoke, fumes, inability to sleep, foundation damage, cracked walls, odors, and so on at Total’s Rocking Horse site. Just like in Fort Worth, the city allowed these harms to be inflicted on residents and argued they were permissible under the city’s gas well ordinance.
For Liveable, Samsel’s report raises serious questions about fracking in Fort Worth and environmental justice:
👉 How could the city put all this highly polluting, dangerous drilling next to our homes and schools?
👉 Why did the TCEQ give emissions permits using Permit by Rule without public hearings or considering neighborhood impacts?
👉 Why don't we have 24/7 air monitoring at frack sites? Perhaps because it would reveal the horrific pollution we have to breathe - both visible and invisible.
👉 Why is Total, which is not allowed to frack anywhere in its home country of France, allowed to drill all around our cities, next to homes and preschools and daycares?
Here are some of the major concerning items that Samsel’s article reveals:
There are only 2 inspectors in Fort Worth for 1,900 wells and they aren’t allowed to monitor the air
Gas well inspectors are apparently rare creatures in Fort Worth, and the city’s gas well ordinance bars them from inspecting air emissions (instead, they focus on groundwater).
One of Fort Worth’s gas well inspectors, Brendan Skaggs, told Samsel:
“They’re fracking out there, so there is probably a lot of dust and accumulation in the air. But we don’t even have the equipment to do any kind of (air) monitoring, and we’re really not allowed to do that.”
Just like state regulators, the city pretends pollution doesn’t exist by choosing not to monitor air emissions. Inspectors should be allowed to investigate air emissions, and we need 24-hour air monitoring at gas well sites.
Making air quality complaints brings out the code compliance inspector
When the city receives air quality complaints, the city sends code compliance officers. But this approach is problematic. Residents fear retaliation from code compliance officers who they say often ask residents about unrelated issues about their properties.
In other words, if you ask the city to protect your air quality they may come and give you a code violation for your home.
According to Mount Tabor residents, the best way to get an inspector to a site is to call city council members or the mayor. Clearly the city’s system for addressing complaints is not serving residents, especially in Mount Tabor.
“Administrative approval”: Gas wells approved in secret without public input
In Arlington, the city approved several new gas wells last year at Total's Rocking Horse site using a mechanism called “administrative approval,” which bypassed the public hearing process and let the city make the decision to allow Total to pollute community members without input from neighbors or even a city council vote from their elected representatives.
Unsurprisingly, Total enjoys similar benefits in Fort Worth. The permit allowing Total to drill the four new gas wells at Mount Tabor, which caused the recent incident, was approved administratively without a public hearing.
City staff rubber stamped the new gas wells because the city had approved a permit to drill gas wells at the site within 600 feet of homes over a decade ago, during the height of the fracking boom.
The city also passed an ordinance in 2009 allowing it to approve permits on smaller city-owned parcels (5 acres or less) without a vote or public hearing.
1,900 wells, no air monitoring, two inspectors, and a process for quickly approving new gas wells in secret - Fort Worth, like Arlington, is in a dangerous situation and residents are very vulnerable to new drilling and its health impacts.
It’s time to mobilize in Fort Worth and other communities to protect residents and children from new drilling dangerously close to neighborhoods.