FORT WORTH North Texans voiced their concerns about air, water and health Thursday at a meeting about oil and natural gas drilling in the Barnett Shale.

For some, the emotions were overwhelming.

Here's the fact that shook up an overflow crowd and state lawmakers at Fort Worth City Hall: There are 14,000 wells in the Barnett Shale with just 12 state inspectors to monitor them.

Citizens pleaded with lawmakers to protect their air and water from possible threats posed by gas drilling.

Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief pleaded for more authority to regulate gas pipelines. So cities can ensure these pipelines are not near heavily populated residential areas, he said. Give us the tools. Let us do the job.

Until this public hearing of the Texas House of Representatives Energy Resources Committee, citizens had to go to Austin to be heard by state lawmakers.

Industry representatives warned them not to strangle the goose that keeps on laying golden eggs.

Imagine walking into the next session with nothing in the bank, which is where most states are, said tax consultant Jim LeBas. Why do we have $8.2 billion? Because have oil and gas.

LeBas said Texas would have no rainy day fund if not for oil and gas.

Arlington City Council member Mel LeBlanc said his city has received $70 million so far. This is more than all the lease payments to be paid by the Dallas Cowboys for the lease of the stadium, he said.

But lawmakers were clearly alarmed when John Tintera, head of the Texas Railroad Commission, conceded that he had only a dozen inspectors for 14,000 wells.

He's been told to cut his budget, even as drilling increases.

County governments also asked for more authority to protect rural residents from drilling near homes.

Energy industry representatives countered they shouldn't face different rules from every city and county in Texas.


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