2015 Archives

Voices and votes against fracking rang out and racked up in 2014


The following is from the Dec. 31, 2014, edition of Inside Climate News. SMU Adjunct Law Professor Joe Dancy provided expertise for this story.

January 6, 2015

By David Hasemyer
Inside Climate News

LAREDO, Texas—Burch Muldrow was absolutely fed up with Lewis Petroleum. 

The oil company was bulldozing dirt over a pit full of black, oily sludge on the ranch where he worked as caretaker. 

Recalling a dramatic incident that happened two years ago, Muldrow said recently that he couldn't just stand by and watch. So he grabbed an empty one-gallon plastic milk jug from the bed of his pickup. 

He cut off the top and scooped up some of the waste, muck he described as having the consistency of thick cake batter and smelling like diesel fuel. 

Muldrow simply wanted to get the stuff tested to find out exactly what was being buried­­ — and what harm it might cause. His impulsive action in 2012 thrust him into a larger wave of national opposition to oil-and-gas development that continues to gain momentum today. . . 

A gathering voice of outrage now echoes from a tiny courthouse in Karnes County, Texas, to the wind-blown high desert of Nevada; and from the council chambers in Boulder, Colo., to the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C. 

Across the country, from California to Ohio, people have gone to the ballot box to protect the air they breathe and the water they drink by enacting bans on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. . . 

Joe Dancy, an adjunct professor of energy and environmental law at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, said the uprising could be attributable to people frustrated with regulators either too slow to enact rules or too protective of the industry. 

"If people don't think the agencies that are supposed to be protecting them are doing the job, they take it upon themselves," he said. 

However, Dancy defends regulators; he says they are trying to do a good job. It's just that fracking technology is developing so quickly and the practice is growing so fast that the science and studies that regulators need to develop new guidelines haven't caught up with the boom. 

"This revolution has happened so fast the regulators are on a treadmill that's going faster than they can keep up with," he said. 

The industry is working within existing regulations that may be outmoded when it comes to fracking, he said. 

"So because people are anxious for regulations to catch up with technology, they take it upon themselves to act," Dancy added. 

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