Monday, October 3, 2022

Biro's way is not the right way

I am writing this letter to the Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette in response to an opinion column entitled “The right way to protect Flower Mound” by Ladd Biro.  I am disturbed by the tone, inflammatory language, twisting of facts, incorrect information, and questionable logic is apparently condoned simply because it is offered as an “opinion”.   Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but that doesn’t mean it should be offered a public forum without editorial scrutiny.

Inflammatory language such as “slithered”, “disasters”, “sordid”, and “sell-out” is not necessary to frame a factual and thoughtful presentation of an opinion. 

Twisting of facts.  The writer infers that –

– a business, such as Williams, should not utilize the zoning process, but instead submit requests directly to the Town Council.  The idea that companies should simply bypass the planning and zoning process to submit their requests directly to elected politicians should certainly give most thoughtful residents pause; this seems fraught with potential problems.

– zoning changes, to deal with a facility previously not specifically addressed in the regulations, is wrong.  What is wrong with that?  Isn’t that what we hope would happen?

– the assistance of Williams in drafting detailed guidelines is somehow bad or harmful.  Isn’t this what you hope would happen?  This doesn’t mean that the town staff cannot hire an independent expert to review the proposed guidelines, but it certainly reduces the expense of the initial drafting process.

– If Williams follows the Town’s requirements, that the Town may be unable to say “no”.  Well, yes, the idea in setting forth requirements is that if they are complied with then development is allowed to occur.  There is occasional ‘hearsay’ of builders who decline to develop property in Flower Mound because of difficulties with respect to the Town’s regulations, but obviously those who do comply are welcome to develop property, and do.

Incorrect information-

The author claims that fracturing fluid is “nasty, deadly stuff” that contains roughly 240 toxic chemicals.  This is disingenuous, incorrect, and misleading.  Fracturing fluid in the Barnett Shale is 99.5% water and sand.  The remaining half a percent is a mixture of chemicals, typically 10-15, of which many are used in common household products.  Different companies may use different trade names, and slightly different compositions, and a New York study which received submissions from many different companies came out to be over 200 items long but a typical fracture fluid does NOT contain 240 toxic chemicals. That is simply wrong. That doesn’t mean you would want to eat or drink them straight, of course, but a little perspective is needed here.  Windshield wiper fluid is 31% methanol, but most of us pour into the car where it is supposed to go.  Gasoline has a large amount of benzene in it, but most of us put it in the car and don’t drink it.

Questionable logic-

The author states that “Accidents are an inevitable byproduct of gas drilling operations”.  The implication is that this is an unacceptable risk, but no data is supplied to allow a rational decision.  More simply, accidents are an inevitable byproduct of development of any kind.  Isn’t the rational response to develop as safely as possible, rather than to not develop?  Automobiles were more dangerous than horses, but that didn’t prevent society from developing transportation.  Trains have wrecks fairly routinely, but banning their use and putting more trucks on the road would be worse.  Refineries are more dangerous than corn fields, but we still choose to produce gasoline.

As I understand it, the Centralized Collection Facility will allow safer disposal of water produced from natural gas wells than now occurs.  The produced water is a combination of formation water (about 95% of the total) produced with the natural gas, and fracturing fluids (about 5% or the total) that flow back from a well in the weeks following a “fracturing operation”.  Formation water is a salty brine with traces of hydrocarbons that continues to be produced throughout the life of a natural gas well.  The present practice is to collect this water at each well site, then truck this away for disposal every few days from each well site.  Though this is legal, the large amount of dispersed truck traffic is obviously less safe than would be experienced with a Centralized Collection Facility.  Leakages and spills are easier to monitor at a central facility than if dozens of dispersed sites are used, as at present.

Chuck Freeny
Flower Mound, TX

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