FORT WORTH - North Texans who are concerned about potential hazards from gas-well drilling say a new EPA report gives credence to their fears.
The EPA found a link between hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and ground water contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming. Though no such link has ever been established by the EPA, the federal agency emphasized that the fracking there differed from well fracking in other parts of the country, including North Texas.
But Louis McBee with the North Central Texas Communities Alliance said this announcement should be a warning sign to slow down drilling until all concerns can be addressed.
The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates drilling, dismissed the EPA's report and said, "As no data or science has been found linking the practice of hydraulic fracturing to any cases of groundwater contamination in Texas, the Commission sees no need and has no plans to make any regulatory changes at this time."
Still, McBee said the EPA's announcement should give state regulators pause.
"I think the lesson learned is we should slow down the process and stop gas drilling until we determine what the best practices are and define those," he added.
Fracking, which is pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals into the ground to get natural gas out, and its impact on ground water has long worried critics of the Barnett Shale especially as a severe drought in the state lingers.
"We have a limited supply of water and I hear about water that's contaminated everyday," said Sharon Wilson, organizer, Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project.
Arlington has several dozen drill sites.
Though the city told News 8 that it's interested in what the EPA discovered in Wyoming it has no worry that the same thing might be happening here.
"I think we feel very safe that we have operations in the city that are compliant with laws of the state," said Jim Parajon, Director of Community Development and Planning for Arlington.
The City of Fort Worth uses lake water from Kaufman County - not an aquifer.
But rural areas sitting on the shale rely on the aquifer for their well water.
The EPA's report on Wyoming might not have direct impact on Texas but it will no doubt focus more attention on fracking.
Reacting to the EPA's findings, Texas state representative Lon Burnam said in part:
"If the EPA's preliminary findings prove correct, the people of Pavillion join a long list of residents around the country, including right here in the Barnett Shale, whose air, water, and private property rights have been sacrificed in the rush to tap this abundant energy resource.
"Hopefully, as more communities feel the adverse effects of living amongst gas wells, compressor stations, storage tanks, and other facilities, the public will insist that lawmakers enact the kind of sensible and cost-effective controls that will protect their health and safety.
A voicemail left for the president of the Barnett Shale Education Council, the industry's local outreach organization in North Texas, was not immediately returned on Thursday.