Lawmaker calls for action after toxin found at gas operations



Posted on November 3, 2009 at 2:32 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 3 at 3:38 PM

FORT WORTH — State Sen. Wendy Davis is expressing surprise and concern this week about preliminary results of air testing in the Barnett Shale. As a result, she's asking Lt. Governor David Dewhurst to convene a Senate investigation prior to the next session.

"It seems as though there are some very serious health concerns that should cause us alarm," Davis said.

Davis is referring to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's discovery of a cancer-causing toxin in the air near some natural gas operations in the Barnett Shale.

The benzene levels were discovered as part of a larger study on emissions being conducted with the help of an infrared camera that identifies heat.

Long-term exposure to benzene can lead to leukemia.

On Monday, Davis sent a letter to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, calling for a Senate investigation into the environmental impacts of gas production processes, and expressing concern over the benzene levels discovered both by TCEQ and a private study in DISH, a small Denton County community.

In both cases, TCEQ says additional testing is needed.

Davis had previously requested an examination of the environmental impacts of the Barnett Shale prior to the next legislative session as part of a larger list of proposed issues to be considered.

However, in Monday's letter, Davis summarized the concerns about benzene levels found in Barnett Shale air.

"Given all of the above, I respectfully re-urge your appointment of an interim study to review current data, to determine whether further testing is necessary, and to recommend pollution control methods to assure protection of the health of the community that we represent," Davis wrote.

Thus far, Dewhurst's office has issued no response to Davis' request.