FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Anyone who can look out from their neighborhood at a natural gas well site or compressor station wonders the same thing. “I drive there a lot of times and I was thinking ‘who is actually monitoring those people?'” says Eric Eclavea, whose northwest Fort Worth home is near a drilling sight. “Who’s keeping an eye?”
Governor Rick Perry, during a visit to the Peterbilt truck manufacturing plant in Denton on Friday, said Texas is keeping an eye on the industry. “Hydraulic fracking is safe and its an effective way to unlock decades worth of energy trapped far beneath our state’s surface.”
During the visit to Denton, the governor signed into law a bill that requires natural gas drillers to disclose what chemicals they pump into the ground to fracture the rock where gas deposits are.
It’s the first law like it in the U.S. And the state is adding 20 more air monitors in counties on the Barnett Shale.
For the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, its a big, added responsibility — and an opportunity.
Fort Worth Senator Wendy Davis and environmental groups accused the TCEQ of withholding reports showing higher than first reported levels of benzene in the air a year and a half ago. It left the TCEQ trying to explain the mix-up to an nervous population living ever-closer to natural gas sites. It was lost public trust state leaders are anxious to regain.
“The bottom line is we’re committed to making sure we have good data to ensure when we say the air is clean we can prove it,” TCEQ Chairman Brian Shaw said. “And if we find problems with the air we can have the information and data to develop solutions that will allow us to solve those problems and look the citizen of Texas in the eye and say these regulations make sense.”
The Governor also signed into law incentives for business operating in Texas to convert to cleaner-burning 18-wheelers. The law establishes a “triangle” incorporating Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio. The state will offer grants to install natural gas fueling stations and encourage the purchase of the new natural gas powered rigs.