President Obama has appointed Dr. Alfredo Amandariz as new Administrator of Regions 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency, encompassing Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. (See Dallas Morning News article) Dr. Amendariz, a professor of engineering at Southern Methodist University, raised controversy among natural gas producers in the Barnett Shale earlier this year by publishing a study of the effects of Barnett Shale drilling and production on pollution in the Dallas-Fot Worth metropolitan area. See my earlier blog on Dr. Armendariz's report.
In a related development, State Senator Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, has (for a second time) asked Lt. Governor Dewhurst to authorize a senate investigation of the environmental impacts of natural gas production in the Barnett Shale. Preliminary results of testing conducted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and a private study conducted by the Denton County town of DISH found elevated levels of benzene in the air near natural gas production facilities. The TCEQ is conducting a third phase of air emissions tests in the area of the Barnett Shale, and expects to have a report by the end of the year. A fourth phase of the testing is scheduled for spring 2010. "We've had oil and gas development in Texas for a long time, but it was primarily in rurual areas," said Tony Walker, director of TCEQ's Dallas-Fort Worth Office. "Not it is in urban and in more populated areas. We're studying every aspect of gas production. We will look at the drilling and frcing process, condensate tanks, compressor stations, gas lines, valves and allother possible sources of emissions."