Fort Worth Shows Why So Many Towns Are Banning Fracking

CREDIT: © 2012 Julie Dermansky

Fracking site in residential neighborhood in Fort Worth.

Several cities and counties in the U.S. have instituted bans or moratoria on the oil and gas extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in recent years and Fort Worth’s experience with urban fracking shows why.

“Fort Worth has been fracked to capacity,” resident Don Young told Julie Dermansky for the DeSmog Blog. “There is no turning back. Some days the air is so bad you can’t see downtown.”

Chesapeake Energy began offering $300 and a pizza party for owners of mineral rights in predominantly poor and working class African American neighborhoods in 2003 and encountered little resistance, DeSmog Blog reported. Now Fort Worth has around 2,000 wells.

Residents have been sickened by vapors from drilling operations, found their neighborhoods suddenly ruined by noise and fumes, and had their water sucked up by drilling operations in the middle of severe drought. Five sites were found in 2011 to be emitting pollution above state limits, according to a study commissioned by the Fort Worth City Council, and most of the 388 sites studied released visible emissions.

Right next door to Fort Worth, the Dallas city council is considering letting fracking start up in town with a vote likely to come next week, capping a three-year fight over the future of fracking in the city. Until recently, Dallas had rejected attempts to frack in town, but that stance seems to be over. Current debate is over the distance required between wells and homes or wells and other wells: 1,500 feet or 1,000.

Dallas’ fracking ordinance is being considered just as researchers from Southern Methodist University linked a series of Texas earthquakes to injection of fracking wastewater into the ground. The Fort Worth Basin hadn’t experienced an earthquake prior to 2008, but 2009 and 2010 saw over 50 occur.

Experiences like Fort Worth’s are a key reason communities across the U.S. and the world have mobilized to place bans or moratoria on fracking. Four Colorado cities passed fracking bans in November by popular vote, in spite of drilling industry campaigns against the initiatives. Their ultimate success is uncertain, as the Colorado gas industry is suing to try and block three of the four, a battle that will likely end in the state Supreme Court, but towns in New York and Pennsylvania, and counties in New Mexico and Hawaii maintain theirs.