Air Monitoring is Job Number 1

The recent civil unrest across the Middle East underscores the importance of developing domestic alternatives to our foreign energy imports. Natural gas produced here in Texas helps decrease our dependence on imports from Chavez’s Venezuela, Putin’s Russia and Gaddafi’s Libya.

In terms of environmental impact, natural gas-fired plants produce half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as many nitrogen oxides, and 1% as many sulfur oxides as coal-fired plants. In addition to being in our national security interest and more environmentally friendly, natural gas development in the Barnett Shale has proved to be a valuable economic engine for our region and our state. A report from the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas estimated that development in the Barnett Shale will generate $100 billion for the Texas economy and tens of thousands of new jobs.

Despite these tremendous benefits, I believe that natural gas development must be conducted in the safest and most responsible manner possible. Over the past few years, much dedication and hard work has been put toward reaching the right balance. Open dialogue between the community and the industry coupled with enhanced oversight by state agencies has helped tackle many of the challenges faced when the development first started.

On both the local and state level, public officials have worked on a variety of initiatives aimed at increasing transparency, open-communication and public safety. For example, in response to concerns about air quality, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) installed “continuous air monitors” across the Barnett Shale, tested hundreds of different sites and took thousands of samples. Fortunately, not one of these state-of-the-art air monitors has shown the air to be hazardous. The new air monitors in DISH, Flower Mound, Decatur, Ft. Worth, Eagle Mountain Lake, and Dallas-Hinton now provide both regulators and the public real time access to air quality readings 24 hours a day 7 days a week on the TCEQ website.

I strongly encourage everyone to utilize this tool along with the TCEQ’s website on the Barnett Shale, which has extensive information on the TCEQ’s efforts to protect our air quality and environment:

In the 82nd Legislature, I am working with my fellow Legislators to ensure that monitoring and inspecting in the Barnett Shale remains a top priority. Recently, I joint-authored a bill with several other Members from the North Texas area that will provide for an even more comprehensive air monitoring system for our region. House Bill 1145 provides Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP) funding for the creation of a region-wide air monitoring system. The monitoring will be administered by an independent not-for-profit organization similar to the organization that has a long and successful history of monitoring air quality in the Houston area. If passed, this initiative will further strengthen the air monitoring network already in place.

In order to reassure the public of the safety of drilling operations, more and more companies are now openly disclosing the contents of the hydraulic fracturing fluid they use. I am working with other Legislators and industry officials to continue the trend towards enhanced disclosure. We are also working on encouraging the use of methods that recycle and reuse the water used in hydraulic fracturing.

I believe that the open dialogue between the state, county, and local representatives and the industry along with the enhanced oversight from state agencies are very positive examples of our area’s ability to manage the unique challenge of natural gas development.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding these matters, please do not hesitate to contact me. As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives. I can be contacted at my district office at 972.724.8477 or my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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