The Cost of Fracking: Environment Texas Documents the Dollars Drained by Dirty Drilling

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Environment Texas

DALLAS – Firing a new salvo in the ongoing debate over the gas drilling practice known as fracking, Environment Texas today released a report documenting a wide range of dollars and cents costs imposed by dirty drilling.  As documented in The Costs of Fracking, fracking creates millions of dollars of costs related to everything from water infrastructure to ruined roads to devalued property.   The report release comes amidst deliberations by the Dallas City Council over proposed changes to the city ordinance governing drilling.

“Fracking’s environmental damage is bad enough, but it turns out that this dirty drilling imposes heavy dollar and cents costs as well,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “This is further evidence that the Dallas City Council should not allow drilling in neighborhoods and parks.   

The report documents a wide range of costs imposed by fracking, including:

  • The truck traffic needed to deliver water to a single fracking well causes as much damage to local roads as nearly 3.5 million car trips. The state of Texas has approved $40 million in funding for road repairs in the Barnett Shale region, while Pennsylvania estimated in 2010 that $265 million would be needed to repair damaged roads in the Marcellus Shale region.
  • The need for vast amounts of water for fracking is driving demand for new water infrastructure in arid regions of the country. Texas’ official State Water Plan calls for the expenditure of $400 million on projects to support the mining sector over the next 50 years, with fracking projected to account for 42 percent of mining water use by 2020.
  • Taxpayers may wind up on the hook for plugging and reclaiming orphaned wells. Texas already has more than 7,800 orphan oil and gas wells – wells that were never properly closed and whose owners, in many cases, no longer exist as functioning business entities. These wells pose a continual threat of groundwater pollution and have cost the state of Texas more than $247 million to plug.
  • A recent study by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health found that residents living within a half-mile of natural gas wells in one area of Colorado were exposed to air pollutants that increased their risk of illness. The report noted that “health effects, such as headaches and throat and eye irritation reported by residents during well completion activities occurring in Garfield County, are consistent with known health effects of many of the hydrocarbons evaluated in this analysis.”
  • Fracking can affect the value of nearby homes. A 2010 study in Texas concluded that houses valued at more than $250,000 and within 1,000 feet of a well site saw their values decrease by 3 to 14 percent.
  • The average public health costs of air pollution from fracking operations in Texas’ Barnett Shale region reach $270,000 per day during the summer smog season.

Between 2003 and 2010, more than 11,000 wells were drilled in the Fort Worth basin of Texas’ Barnett Shale formation. The Barnett Shale underlies one of the most populous regions of the state – the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex – and drilling has taken place in urban and suburban neighborhoods of the region. The Costs of Fracking report comes as Dallas is considering proposed changes to the city ordinance governing drilling.

“Umbrella neighborhood groups representing over 200 homeowners associations throughout Dallas have come together to call for a stronger gas drilling ordinance that will protect all residents,” said Claudia Meyer, a member of the Mountain Creek Neighborhood Alliance. “The North Dallas Neighborhood Alliance, the Dallas Homeowners League, the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League and the Mountain Creek Neighborhood Alliance have all joined in efforts to keep drilling at a safe distance from or homes, schools and parks. The future of our communities is at stake.”   

However, to the extent that fracking is continuing at thousands of sites across Texas, the report also recommends dramatically stepped-up bonding requirements and other financial assurances that match the full scope of fracking’s immediate and long-term costs.

“This report shows the fracking industry is run by socialists.  Corporate socialists,” said Sharon Wilson of EARTHWORKS’ Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project. “Frackers reap the profits while communities pay the costs.”