Watchdog group says public may be at risk living in Eagle Ford Shale area
KENS5 | Joe Conger
September 19, 2013
Read this article on the publishing site
KARNES CITY -- An oil industry watchdog group said state regulators are leaving the public at risk in the Eagle Ford Shale oil fields.
Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project issued its report today, calling on the industry and the government agencies which oversee the oil companies to clean up their acts.
The group says the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality or TCEQ failed to respond properly to illegal emissions from some oil and gas facilities.
“When you see your son with up to three nosebleeds a day, something’s wrong with this picture,” said Myra Cerny in May.
The Cernys told the I-Team their health was being compromised by cancer-causing gases escaping from wells and pipelines near their home.
Now comes word from a report issued by Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project that state regulators should’ve warned the family and others in Karnes County of the danger.
“I think their ears are stuffed too full of industry money to hear the cries of the people,” said Sharon Wilson, one of the authors of the study.
Wilson said the study confirmed the I-Team’s findings: that several Marathon Oil facilities were out of compliance, sending clouds of toxic chemicals, including hydrogen sulfide and benzene into the air.
Earthworks reports the levels were so high in one instance; TCEQ investigators fled for safety, but never cited the operator or warn residents.
Wilson said, “They could’ve stopped and knocked on some doors and said, ‘hey, it’s dangerous here right now. You need to leave or stay inside.’”
After our inquiry, the TCEQ issued a response to the Earthworks report. In an email to KENS-TV, the agency said it takes a proactive response, including regular, aerial recon missions to find leaky facilities and monitor them.
The TCEQ said in the last year, 408 investigations have been conducted in the Eagle Ford Shale play, resulting in “approximately” 100 notices of violation.
Wilson said those notices should only be a start, not the end of the dialogue on public safety in an oil patch.
“This is really a national problem. The penalties are so low that it is not a deterrent to industry. They just consider it the cost of doing business,” added Wilson.
The TCEQ email did not address how many fines were issued or if any oil and gas facilities were shut down due to violations.
The Earthworks report is issued just as Japanese business executives are visiting the Eagle Ford Shale area this week to consider investing in Texas’ oil boom.
Meantime, the Cernys continue to maintain their residence in the Eagle Ford Shale play.