Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, requested air quality monitoring of natural gas drilling in the Barnett Shale be designated an emergency issue for the Legislature.
“We must make sure that the business of extracting natural resources from our communities is not detracting from the public’s health,” she said.
Senator Nelson joined other legislators in a letter to Governor Perry requesting an emergency declaration, which would allow the Legislature to consider the issue in an expedited manner.
The proposed legislation would add up to 20 new air monitors funded with $5 million through the Texas Emission Reduction Program, which funds projects to improve air quality. Information from the monitors would be reported quarterly to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and annually to the Texas Legislature.
“Data from these additional monitors will support our efforts to study the environmental and health impact of drilling operations,” said Senator Nelson.
Last year, Senator Nelson worked with Senator Troy Fraser, Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, to double the number of air monitors in North Texas with a focus on locating monitors near concentrated populations such as Flower Mound.
The monitors test for benzene and 45 different volatile organic compounds. Residents can view real -time readings and hourly averages from the monitors at http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/compliance/monitoring/air/monops/agc/agc_barnett.html.
As Chairman of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, Senator Nelson has been working closely with the Department of State Health Services, which conducted a series of biological tests on residents in Denton County to determine if there are any elevated levels of the by-products associated with natural gas drilling.
She also asked the state health department to look into whether any cancer clusters existed. “So far, the Department has found that our area’s testing is in line with what you would find in similarly populated regions. But we have to remain vigilant,” said Senator Nelson.