Pollution from drilling in Fort Worth isn’t harming health, study says

Bruce Bullock of SMU's Maguire Energy Institute talks a new air quality report concerning natural gas drilling and production in the Fort Worth area.

Staff Writer

Natural gas drilling and production in Fort Worth doesn’t generate enough air pollution to cause adverse health effects, although some facilities don’t comply with environmental rules.

 Those are the findings of an air quality report commissioned by the city of Fort Worth and released Thursday. The city, with its 2,000 natural gas wells, is in the heart of the Barnett Shale natural gas field, where residents, drillers and politicians have argued about making sure operations are safe.

“The measured and estimated air pollution levels did not reach levels that have been observed to cause adverse health effects,” the report states, and “the measured benzene and formaldehyde levels in Fort Worth were not unusually elevated when compared to levels currently measured by TCEQ [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] elsewhere in Texas.”

Further, 98 percent of the emissions came from pollutants with low toxicities, such as methane, ethane, propane and butane, the report states.

Five sites reviewed by the study — a processing facility, three compressor stations and a well pad — emitted more pollution than allowed. Most natural gas sites do not emit enough pollution to require a permit, but those five sites “had overall emission rates that exceed regulatory thresholds that are supposed to trigger certain permitting requirements,” the report states. . .

The report “shows us some things that are working,” said Bruce Bullock, another member of the task force and director of Southern Methodist University’s Maguire Energy Institute.

“At the same time, it shows us — albeit some relatively minor things — some things we need to make sure are done from a housekeeping standpoint,” he said.

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