Frack Finding Tour – Day 2 – Fort Worth city & suburbs

Day 2 – Fort Worth Texas

Fort Worth is a city of over 1 million people and is, seemingly proudly, the first city in the US to allow the unconventional gas industry into its urban centre. Today there are 2000 wells with their tanks, pipes, separators, massive noisy drilling operations, compressor stations, fencing, roads, water holding ponds, all within the city limits. This heavy industry is everywhere we look.  It dominates the urban environment.Gas-wells-and-apratment-web1

It is metres from homes, in the museum district, next to apartment blocks, next to banks and medical centres,  in the down town area and along the banks of the Trinity River which runs the full length of Texas through Dallas and Forth Worth to the coast.

Don Young knows all about what has been going on in Fort Worth. He became an accidental activist after Chesepaeke Energy applied to drill in the conservation park across the road from his house in 2004. He started up the Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Ordinance to fight the plans. A lifelong resident of Fort Worth, Don and his wife Deborah are leaving this year, fed up with the impact on their lives of the gas industry and the apathy within the conservative town about the long term impacts that the gas industry presents.

Don’s was the first house I saw showing any form of opposition to the gas industry since arriving in the US. The understated red sign‘Just say no to urban gas drilling’ was hammered into the front lawn. His car was the first I saw with anti-gas stickers too. The reason for the apathy according to Don is the upfront payments paid by the gas companies to landholders to lease the rights to gas under their properties. It works to effectively buy off opposition.

In the US landholders generally hold title to the minerals under their land and the gas companies sign lease agreements to be able to access and sell the gas. These agreements are also struck with residential small lot holders in urban environments where presumably the gas company works out what your share of total gas production from an area is worth and pay a royalty rate of around 25%.

Of course this sounds like a lot of money and many are told of ‘lotto’ like returns over the next few decades. What many fail to realise is that by signing a lease with the gas companies, the landholders essentially enter into the gas business and the costs of production is then factored in before royalties are paid. According to Gary Hogan (North Central Texas Communities Alliance) who lives about 100 metres from a multi-well pad at Chapel Creek, the landholders in his residential suburb are getting around $100 per year. Combined with the 20-30% fall in property values that Gary puts down to the gas industry moving into his suburb and property owners appear to be getting the raw end of the deal.

The Industry was described in the New York Times last year as a giant ponzi scheme and Gary agrees. With production rates falling to 50% after the first year, another 10% after the second year, and with significantly higher costs than initially projected to re-stimulate, and maintain flows, the economics are starting to look shaky.

The fall in gas prices has further shaken the confidence of the industry. Most of the new wells according to Gary are being drilled to meet the lease requirements with landholders but are not being stimulated to produce gas and will simply sit there until the prices goes up. For now the industry is largely stagnant with big companies selling out to smaller ones to allow then to manage the wind down of supply from old wells and the decommissioning process. Gary believes if the boom comes back the district will see thousands of more wells but he questions whether or not it is worth it at all.gas-wells-and-houses-532x300

In his area Gary has witnessed the wholesale industrialization of the residential community with seven multi-pad wells within a mile of his house. The noise and disturbance, especially from the two trips a day the water truck makes to take away produced water, is not compatible with the residential environment. He also thinks there is substantial evidence to suggest the wells are making the community sick with increased allergies and asthma. Air quality in the Dallas / Fort Worth area is now worse than Houston and daily emissions from Oil and Gas is now more than from all vehicular traffic within the area. Don Young told me of a study that showed childhood asthma rates in his county were more than double the national average.

One well site stood out amongst the dozens we saw around Fort Worth as an example of just how crazy the industry is here in Texas.

Driving past a block of relatively new town houses in the middle of suburban Fort Worth we pass an unlined ‘fresh water’ pond about 2 or 3 acres in size that has been dug into what used to be a park. Next to that is a well pad about the same size that looks like it has been prepared for the drilling of six horizontal wells.

The sign on the fence says that Cheasapeake Energy has applied for a protected use waiver to operate within 600metres of a protected use area. I assume the protected use is people’s homes. It looks like the company is confident of getting approval though because they have spent a massive amount of money clearing a large pad and building a water storage pond literally within a few metres of a new town house complex, and a huge fence around the lot with landscaping to hopefully some day shroud this disgraceful loss of community space.

I know from taking with Don and Garry just what this community has in store for them when the drilling starts.Gary-Hogan-300x199

We often hear from the industry in Australia that horizontal drilling will dramatically reduce the footprint of this industry. But if this pad is anything to go by, the multiuse pads are about six times the size of a single pad. With water management added on, if this is done on agricultural land or in sensitive environmental areas in Australia it will be a disaster.

Just down the road is another site without the water pond and with six operating wells right next to a kid’s soccer field. And the childhood asthma rates continue to rise.


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  • Thank you Jeremy for reporting on this MOST disturbing ‘gas’ industry in America, which is being repeated in Australia as “WE The People” well know.

    I am ashamed of the Australian Government Departments of many. They have sold out Australia to many mining companies, gas being one of these resources. In Australia the GAS industry moves across the landscape like ‘cancerous-pox’. Altering the landscape forever. Leaving toxic dams, polluting the ground & ground water, while leaving toxic holding dams which will or are all death traps for wildlife, as they slip down the plastic sides for a drink not realising they are doomed to a panicked death by drowning.

    My heart goes out to all those people in America that have been sold out by the American Government (which Josh Fox’s GASLAND showed us all) and (your report in America Jeremy) and how our Australian Government has/is doing to promote this VERY DIRTY INDUSTRY is so very alarming! So many people sick, dying and dead along with their animals and the wildlife in America. For Australia the loss of farming/food producers being lost to mining has been happening for sometime and is accelerating. Australia’s polluted present and future is all around us.

    Australia’s Government should learn by the gross errors made with the gas and coal industry in America. Yet the Australian Government does not learn or acknowledge how bad mining really is to life and health of every living thing in the area of gas/coal other forms of mining/infrastructure, forced on an environment, people and animals.

    Tony Abbot finally answered my question “NO” (when I met him in Gloucester Bowling Club), he had NOT read the Environmental Assessment (EA) of AGL Gas in the Gloucester/Stroud Valley, which will affect river systems to Taree and Port Stephens I believe. Tony Abbot said “someone reads it”. I said to him “this is not good enough, if you have not read it yourself, then you must stop promoting this industry as a good industry and a cleaner alternative to Coal or good to go”. He made one comment on radio next day referencing the two people he had met in Gloucester, the rest of his report showed me he had learn’t nothing by our conversation.

    If Environmental Assessments were actually read by all Government Departments and Ministers who were in position to approve these mines (word for word – as the general public must do when trying to write back a submission of objection in a flawed time frame). The Precautionary Principles and other legislation there to protect the environment would be applied automatically – stopping the methane gas/natural gas industry outright! and coal/other mining industries immediately in certain areas and STOP any form of discharge into natural watersources (swamps, creeks/gullies and Rivers/systems).

    Legislation states 120 of the ACT:- ‘it is illegal to discharge into river systems’ etc. Anyone would assume first glance this would protect and stop destruction of these areas. Yet sadly it does not! Government approved mining can twist legislation:- “Yes Amanda it is illegal to discharge into a river system until its approved, then its no longer illegal” David Kitto NSW Planning Dept. As I stated to David “It will always be illegal to discharge into a river system whether you twist legislation to suit yourselves” Amanda Albury. I asked him if that was his view or if he spoke for the Department, he said he spoke for the Planning Department. I had met David in person at Stratford Townships Hall after the public meeting when everyone else had gone. He had read one of my signs “The Bucketts Way is under Attack from Mining Greed”. He started his presentation to everyone at the public meeting with “I can understand how you feel that the Bucketts Way is under attack from mining greed” etc.

    The Sunday Telegraph (Newspaper of NSW Australia) on 7th August 2011 had printed a full page advertisement by ‘APPEA Belinda Robinson Chief Executive Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association’ – “an open letter to the community” with a huge heading “Coal seam gas. Cleaner Energy for Australia”.

    I don’t agree with Belinda, the evidence and proof is in Australia’s reality with the gas industry; there are many people in Australia seeing their land destroyed by infrastructure, wells, toxic holding dams, their water wells poisoned and able to light them into flame, then there is the leaking gas wells and/or wells foaming, the rivers/creeks that have been cracked and are now gushing gas bubbles which can be lit and flamed and changing the natural colour & ecology of the water. Australia’s sad reality in QLD and NSW with other areas of Australia so keen to jump on the bandwagon of the ‘gas industry’, will only become worse as this industry progresses.

    Our Valley, The Bucketts Way is a designated NSW Tourist Drive 2. The Bucketts Way starts from the Pacific Highway at Twelve Mile Creek and passes through towns and villages to Gloucester and up into the Barrington Ranges or to Taree. The Barrington Ranges have 8 catchment areas (I know of) where our Rivers Start, taking clean fresh water to Scone, Tamworth, into Gloucester valley, Taree Manning River, Port Stephens Karuah River and others areas etc. The headwaters of these areas are being impacted by companies that are destroying the natural bushland areas (first logging) removing everything including our precious wildlife. It seems very strange this is happening in the areas where there are natural resources to extract (gold, rare earth minerals) etc.
    and the amount of tree plantations in that area being planted in areas where once there was natural bushland is most alarming!

    In the Gloucester-Stroud valley we are being left with toxic holding dams/ponds from AGL Gas and Gloucester Coal/Yancoal, digging up and/or discharging into creeks/gullies and rivers causing life to be extinguished a sad reality.

    Government Departments and mining companies ARE responsible for this environmental, criminal act against the environment (air, water, land), humanity, wildlife/animals. Gas extraction and mining companies all have a complete disregard for everyone and everything who is having this mining/extractive industry and/or other mining industries/companies forced upon them by wrongful Government approvals, where the noise of frogs, crickets and the wind in the country is replaced with industrial mining noise and dust from open cuts or fumes from chemicals being put into the ground while drilling for gas or fumes from flaring and/or leaking gas wells, the list goes on.

    The article in the Telegraph states, APPEA are “funding new roads, hospitals and schools”. (We will need the hospitals that APPEA states they are funding in QLD), to care for the people that get sick from their industry (in time).

    APPEA – Jumping on the bandwagon that the gas industry is a “cleaner industry”, when areas being already gassed in Australia shows us the complete opposite. Perhaps Belinda Robinson should come and see areas being destroyed. I would be happy to meet her and introduce her to (communities being affected by this industry she vigorously defends) and I am sure Jeremy and others would do the same.

    The APPEA article states “working with local communities”, “often on agricultural land CSG companies recognise they are guests on the properties of others and that good working relationships are critical in helping access Australia’s abundant gas resources”.

    and “The experience is reinforced by rigorous laws that ensure that every aspect of every CSG project in Australia is assessed, approved and audited by State and Federal Government”.

    Lastly “And the industry supports this, because it wants the community to be reassured that this industry is developing sustainably and able to offer so much opportunity to so many Australians”.

    The AGL Gas – Newcastle Freezing plant at Tomago approved by State, Federal/PAC Government Departments should hang their heads in shame. A wildlife gazetted bushland area in Port Stephens, never to be developed has been sold out. The Gas Chimney 500 metres from the Newcastle Botanical Gardens, will flare at least once a month or more if needed the company stated in a “meet and greet with people at the Tomago Club”.

    Once our air, land and water are poisoned and toxic from the gas industry and other mining companies at the expense of our precious clean natural environment and precious resource WATER that all life depends on, the area ‘bleeds to death’ and everyone and everything unable to get away as this industry or other mining companies moves into a town/village and/or suburb near you, the affects are and will be tragic for any life that remains.

    I am the Secretary of Ironstone Community Action Group (ICAG Inc.) and President of Rivers SOS. I meet directly & network with people around Australia, Canada and America. It is people’s stories who I meet face to face or over the phone or on the Internet, their stories correlate regardless of where they live. Their hardships and suffering causing sicknesses being inflicted onto them, by the Australian Government approving mining companies to move into their area/town or village, impacting people, animals and our wildlife needs to stop! It is a priviledge to meet the people I have met, though sadly through tragic circumstances bringing us together, in objecting to our Government approving inappropriate mining almost everywhere.

    Amanda Albury
    151 Forest Glenn Road
    Limeburners Creek NSW 2324

    PH: (02) 4997-5979


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