Interim Report on Fort Worth Natural Gas Air Quality Study Leaves Biggest Questions Unanswered

Last week, the Fort Worth City Council received an interim report on its Natural Gas Air Quality Study initiated last August.  Unfortunately, this interim report was short on details about the most unique aspect of the project – the direct measurement of emissions at the point of release.

The interim report only presented high-level summaries of results of sampling at 66 sites out of 170 sites where emissions were detected in Phase I (no emissions were detected at another 31 sites).  Stated differently, the interim report provided no information about nearly two-thirds of the sites with detectable emissions.

Notably, the report identified two well sites where the measured emissions, if extrapolated to an entire year, would exceed the state’s limit under the “permit by rule” used by most gas producers.  These findings not only warrant rigorous investigation by regulatory agencies, but also detailed analysis of the effects on the health of surrounding neighbors. 

It was therefore disappointing to hear the City staffer that is managing the study dismiss these elevated emissions as “a permitting issue…not necessarily a health issue.”  While the final analysis may conclude that these emissions don’t pose a health threat to neighbors, there is no basis to downplay the significance before performing the necessary analyses.      

The other part of the first study phase consisted of ambient air monitoring.  The report’s executive summary emphasized that no pollutant concentrations exceeded short-term health benchmarks.  No mention was made of long-term health benchmarks.  Presentations on earlier monitoring campaigns by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality values considered the long-term Effects Screening Levels (ESL), so it was surprising that a similar approach was not used here. 

Using the long-term benchmark, two 24-hour samples at Site 4 (located north of downtown) contained benzene levels exceeding TCEQ’s long-term benchmark of 1.4 ppb (and a third was just barely under that value).  

While a final report on the entire project was originally due on March 25, the project timetable had to be extended late last year when the initial funding ran out before less than half of the targeted well sites had been sampled.  The bad news was that finishing the work would cost the city an additional $400,000 and the final report would be delayed until June 30.  The good news was that last week’s interim report with the results of the first phase of work would be provided.  Sadly, the interim report failed to deliver the details and raw data necessary for the Phase I results to be properly interpreted and analyzed.  As the Star-Telegram put it last week:  “Fort Worth must wait and wait.”

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3 Comments

  1. jerrylobdill
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Dr. Alvarez,

    I sincerely appreciate your honesty and integrity. Unfortunately, we needed it long before you arrived. We needed it when the first attack was launched against Fort Worth. Frankly it's too late for us now.

    We are now participating in a diversionary process designed to result in a continuation of the rape. The AQSC was and is a farce, unfortunately, just like the gas drilling task forces before it.

  2. Posted February 23, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    (no emissions were detected at another 31 sites)…yeah they used either an IR camera or a TVA. keep in mind that a TVA only begins to detect at 500ppm.

    Tonight I went to the Baiely Jr High PTA meeting, however the president would not allow this report "during" the meeting as they don't take positions….if I were drinking milk at the time I would have spewed white at that remark, but I took a deep breath and I said…"sorry I was late for your meeting, I was just in the park by the drill site by our school filming this oily sheen oozing out of the cement in your storm water culvert. Here is the video if anyone wants to see it. TCEQ is referring the unidentified ooze to the water department. It may just be a shiny, luminessent algae that feeds off of the iron rebar under the cement. But maybe I won't tell the PTA that…like they even care?

  3. Gary Hogan
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    This was an orchastrated release of information. The initial report did not back up the information that ERG stated when they told citizens that emissions where found at 68 % of the sites they went to in the first Phase. It does not mention if the 31 sites looked at with flir camera only where actually in production or shut in. Very likely in these days of low prices. They are not going to release the initial report of first phase testing which should be complete and was scheduled to be released on March 25 th. But City Council facing elections do not want to deal with this issue before elections. Surprise folks you just made that faulty thought an election issue in of itself.Dr Alvarez who participated in the Air quality recommendation TF is now getting the inside look that I got after being on 2 Fort Worth Gas Ordinance TF where the Industry was allowed in spite of much citizen input to wrangle results and rules into their favor. We fully can expect a Homogenized result for the publics 1.2 million study. ERG now even was bold enough to say after the controversial facts of what they did release that Oh Sorry that data was in error. POOF there goes your credibility. When you released so little and something alarming is oh yes in error? really…. If you make mistakes like that any of your data might be suspect.

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    Senior Scientist
    Ramon Alvarez is a Senior Scientist in the Texas EDF office. He works to reduce air pollution, with a current emphasis on emissions from natural gas and oil production.

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