Community leaders ask Rep. Doggett to protect Texans from fracking

On Friday, more than 50 elected officials, environmental and business leaders, academics and health professionals wrote Congressman Lloyd Doggett (Austin) urging him to help protect Texans from the worst impacts of fracking by co-sponsoring the CLEANER Act, which would close the loophole that exempts fracking from key provisions of the nation's hazardous waste laws. The letter follows.

On Friday, more than 50 elected officials, environmental and business leaders, academics and health professionals wrote Congressman Lloyd Doggett (Austin) urging him to help protect Texans from the worst impacts of fracking by co-sponsoring the CLEANER Act, which would close the loophole that exempts fracking from key provisions of the nation’s hazardous waste laws. The letter follows.


May 9, 2014 

The Honorable Lloyd Doggett

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515 

Dear Congressman Doggett,

As Austin, San Marcos, and San Antonio environmental and neighborhood leaders, health professionals, local elected officials, academics and small business owners, we are deeply concerned about high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and its growing threats to our environment and public health. We urge you to co-sponsor HR 2825, the CLEANER Act, to close the loopholes that exempt fracking from key provisions of our nation’s hazardous waste law.

Natural gas production, including fracking, produces an enormous amount of hazardous waste, including chemically laden waters from deep underground, naturally occurring radioactive material, and toxic fracking fluids that flow back to the surface. Hundreds of chemicals and other dangerous substances can be used in fracking fluid, many of them toxic and some of them known carcinogens. Fracking operations in Texas produced 260 billion gallons of toxic waste in 2012 alone.

As a result of inadequate or nonexistent regulations, fracking wastes are often mismanaged. Gas companies frequently store hazardous waste in open pits, which, if poorly constructed, can leak wastes into the surrounding land. Open pits are also liable to overflow, especially in rain-prone areas. According to the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District in North Texas, open pits of drilling mud waste contaminated four family water wells in Montague County in 2011.

Texas’ thousands of deep disposal wells are a common destination for fracking waste, but these wells can also fail over time, allowing the wastewater and its pollutants to mix with groundwater or surface water. The Railroad Commission of Texas has acknowledged that wastewater injection into a disposal well contaminated the Cenozoic Pecos Alluvium Aquifer with 6.2 billion gallons of water near Midland. And now, there is growing evidence that disposal of fracking waste deep underground is responsible for the recent increase in earthquakes in Texas.

However, oil and gas companies lobbied to have their waste exempted from key provisions of the nation’s hazardous waste law, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, even though it is often laced with cancer-causing and even radioactive material. As a result, their disposal sites face weaker standards and fewer inspections than if their waste was designated hazardous. Nor are they subject to the same earthquake testing rules.

Meanwhile, well operators often violate safety regulations, increasing the risk of fluid leakage and the threat of water contamination. According to a ProPublica analysis, the Railroad Commission of Texas issued one violation for every three wells examined in 2010. But most facilities aren’t inspected regularly, and if fines are issued at all, they’re generally very low.

In their review of the agency, the Texas Sunset Commission wrote, “Part of the reason for the large number of violations is that the Commission’s enforcement process is not structured to deter repeat violations.”

With the state of Texas failing to protect us, we need the federal government to act to protect communities in Texas from fracking. 

For the sake of Texas’ environment, drinking water, and health, we urge you to cosponsor and work to pass H.R. 2825, the CLEANER Act, introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright, which would close the loophole that exempts fracking from key provisions of our nation’s hazardous waste law


Environmental Leaders                                               Elected Officials

Luke Metzger                                                              The Honorable Mike Martinez

Director, Environment Texas                                      Austin City Council

Austin                                                                         Austin


Margaret Day                                                              The Honorable Chris Riley

Chair, Alamo Sierra Club                                            Austin City Council

San Antonio                                                                Austin


Tom “Smitty” Smith                                                    The Honorable Laura Morrison

Director, Public Citizen’s Texas office                       Austin City Council                           

Austin                                                                         Austin


Andrew Sansom                                                         The Honorable Dawnna Dukes

Executive Director, Meadows Center for                    Texas House of Representatives

Water and the Environment                                        Austin

San Marcos

                                                                                  The Honorable Eddie Rodriguez

David Weinberg                                                          Texas House of Representatives

Executive Director, Texas League of                          Austin

Conservation Voters                                      

                                                                                    Health Professionals

Annalisa Peace                                                            Vincent P. Fonseca, MD, MPH, FACPM

Executive Director, Greater Edwards                           Former Texas State Epidemiologist

Aquifer Alliance                                                          San Antonio

San Antonio


Lanny Sinkin                                                               Trish O’Day – MSN, RN, CNS

Executive Director, Solar San Antonio                        Co-President – Texas Physicians for Social

San Antonio                                                                Responsibility



Alyssa Burgin                                                             Chris Masey

Executive Director, Texas Drought Project                 Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility

San Antonio                                                                Austin


Bill Bunch                                                                   Dr. Charles Anderson

Executive Director, Save Our Springs Alliance           San Marcos


                                                                                   Dr. Bryan and Susan Roberts

David Foster                                                               West Lake Hills         

Texas Director, Clean Water Action

Austin                                                                         Dr. Arthur Rolland Fellows


Rev. Tom VandeStadt                                                                       

Co-Chair, Interfaith Environmental Network               Katharina Hathaway MD

of Austin                                                                     Board member, Physicians for Social

Austin                                                                         Responsibility Texas Chapter


Karen Hadden

Executive Director, Sustainable Energy and              Community leaders

Economic Development Coalition                               Jo Karr Tedder

Austin                                                                         President, Central Texas Water Coalition


Sara E. Smith, J.D.                                                     

Program Director, Texas Public Interest                     J.D. Gins 

Research Group (TexPIRG)                                          Executive Director, Travis County

Austin                                                                        Democratic Party


John Nikolatos                                                           

President, Native Plant Society of                               Edward Reyes

Texas – San Antonio                                                   President, Dove Springs Neighborhood

San Antonio                                                                Association


Brandi Clark Burton

Founder & Chief Inspiration Officer,                           Graciela Isabel Sanchez

Austin EcoNetwork & EcoNetworking                         Director, Esperanza Peace & Justice Center

Austin                                                                         San Antonio


Robin Schneider                                                         Ruth F. Stewart

Executive Director, Texas Campaign for the              Bexar County Democratic Women

Environment                                                               San Antonio



Anna Graybeal & Susan Adams                                 Robert W. Miller

Austin Citizens Climate Lobby                                  Chair, North East Bexar County Democrats

Austin                                                                         San Antonio


Stephen Beers                                                             Jacob Middleton

President, Save Barton Creek Association                  Chair, Northwest Democrats of

Austin                                                                         Bexar County

                                                                                    San Antonio  

Ilan Levin

Environmental Integrity Project                                  Rachell Tucker

Austin                                                                         Co-Chair, Bexar County Green Party

                                                                                   President, Students United for

Cynthia Wheeler                                                         Socioeconomic Justice

Spokesperson, Energía Mía                                         San Antonio

San Antonio                           

                                                                                    Mary Ingle

Kathy Glass & Mobi Warren                                          President, Austin Neighborhoods Council San Antonio                                                    Austin

San Antonio   

                                                                                    Business Leaders

Ethan Thomas Howley                                                 Hugh Fitzsimons

President, UT Fossil Free                                             President, Shape Ranch

Austin                                                                         San Antonio


Academic Leaders                                                       Hill Abell

Prof. Christy Woodward Kaupert                                  President, Bicycle Sport Shop

San Antonio College, Political Science                         Austin

San Antonio

                                                                                    Richard Luciano

Sabrina Hammel                                                          President, R2 Ranch

Government Instructor and Faculty                             Austin

Senate President                                                                                

San Antonio College                                                   Austin Van Zant

San Antonio                                                                Owner, Redbud Roasters

                                                                                   San Marcos    

Richard Reed, PhD

Professor and Director, Environmental                      Lorie Solis and Skeets Rapier

Studies Program, Trinity University                           The Renewable Republic

San Antonio                                                                San Antonio


Kelly G. Lyons, PhD                                                    Michele Petty

Associate Professor, Department of Biology              Law Offices of Michele Petty

Trinity University                                                        San Antonio

San Antonio



Luke Metzger

Executive Director, Environment Texas

As the executive director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation, renewable energy and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughters are working to visit every state park in Texas.