The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted a public information meeting in Fort Worth yesterday to discuss a proposed study of hydraulic fracturing and potential impacts on drinking water. Residents in and around shale gas drilling sites across the United States have recently reported cases of flammable tap water, with some video footage of people lighting their tap water on fire as it runs in their kitchen sinks. (For video footage, click here.) This has stoked concerns about the impact chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process have on the water tables in and around drilling sites.

Texas, however, has not had any reported incidents of flammable tap water at this point, and the Railroad Commission of Texas, the agency responsible for virtually all of the oil and gas production activity in Texas, says it does not have reports indicating water contamination resulting from hydraulic fracturing.

In advance of the EPA”s meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, Railroad Commissioner, Elizabeth Ames Jones, issued the following statement in favor of shale gas drilling in the state of Texas. The statement makes the case that the agency has significant safeguards in place to ensure the safety of hydraulic fracturing and to protect the state”s fresh water supply.

The Railroad Commission of Texas has provided the regulatory framework
for virtually all of the oil and gas production activity in Texas, including over 50 years of hydraulic fracturing, issued the following statement This agency does not allow the permitting of a well where hydraulic fracturing will be used without certification from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that identifies the depth that groundwater must be protected by cement and steel. Water tables, that yield water for human consumption, can extend to a depth of 1000 feet in some areas of the Barnett Shale gas and oil production. The horizontal lateral pipes are placed at an average depth of 7500 feet — more than a mile and one half below the Earth”s surface.

The area well logs around any proposed well are evaluated by geologists/hydrologists at the TCEQ and the depth of the surface casing to protect fresh water formations in every new well is determined by the TCEQ. That determination for each individual well must be submitted to the RRC before we consider issuing a permit to drill. The heavy surface casing extends below the deepest fresh water formation of each proposed new well. The surface casing is cemented in place with the cement flowing back to the surface between the hole and the surface pipe. It is tested for any pressure leakage before drilling ahead commences as an additional safeguard for protecting our fresh water formations.

Based on the facts, one can be confident that the geology in Texas, combined with safeguards that we require in the drilling of a well, simply do not support the notion that water used in hydraulic fracturing will migrate to a water table. With many thousands of fracs taking place in Texas, Commission records do not indicate a single documented water contamination case associated with hydraulic fracturing in our state.

The study the EPA is conducting, like other studies in the past, will show the positive benefits of this homegrown technology that has increased our supply of clean burning natural gas that makes America more energy secure. With the oversight of the Railroad Commission, Texas”s natural gas, produced using innovative technology, will contribute mightily and responsibly to the nation*s energy mix at a time when we sorely need it.

Elizabeth Ames Jones
Texas Railroad Commissioner