Don’t frack with the LGBT community!

Posted on 15 Mar 2012 at 5:00pm

Openly gay Oak Cliff resident was among 1st to warn Dallas residents about risks of hydraulic fracturing; now it’s time for you to get involved

Crawford.Raymond

Raymond Crawford

Phyllis Guest

Let’s say all you know about a member of the LGBT community is that he (a) is an artist who creates needlepoint designs, (b) lives in an Oak Cliff gayborhood, and (c) calls his partner his spouse. What would you imagine he does in his “spare” time? Paint landscapes, perhaps. Breed schnauzers, maybe. Run marathons, possibly.

You’d be wrong — at least when it comes to Raymond Crawford. What he does is work tirelessly to preserve Dallas’ air and water. He was one of the first Dallasites to call attention to gas drilling’s dangers, creating the site DallasDrilling.Wordpress.com.

Let me back up. The elemental danger Crawford and others perceive is posed by hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “hydro-fracking” or simply “fracking.”

Fracking is a process by which deep holes are drilled in the rock beneath our soil and are opened by high-pressure injections of chemically enhanced water plus sand. The pressure pushes this fracking fluid through the rock’s fissures so it can reach and release natural gas. The gas is pushed into pipelines and on to companies that sell energy for industrial and household use here and abroad.

And this is controversial because? Well, for several reasons.

First, ordinary residents were unaware that in 2008 the city signed leases with two companies, XTO Energy and Trinity East, both of which want to frack in Dallas. XTO paid $14.7 million and Trinity East $19 million, for a total of $33.7 million. Apparently city officials spent the money, but on what? The city budget presented a few months later slashed funding for libraries and other “public goods” and eliminated all funding for HIV/AIDS outreach, education and prevention.

Second, fracking is controversial because — while much of the fluid injected into the holes is water — fracking fluid may also contain any number of chemicals … almost 1,000, according to  FracDallas.org. Among them are benzene, ethylbenzene formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid and diesel fuel. That’s why Schlumberger, a major provider of equipment and services in the industry, recommends treating the fracking fluid as hazardous waste.

That’s also why Crawford and so many others are concerned that the industry claims the composition of fracking fluid is a “trade secret.”

Third, according to FracDallas.org, “Each fracture requires 1.5 million to 9 million gallons of fresh water … only about 20-60 percent of the contaminated water injected to fracture a well is recovered.” Water deemed “flowback” or “produced” is never again safe to drink. It is so contaminated it is taken to injection well sites for permanent storage deep in the earth.

As in Cleburne, about which more later.

Fourth, opponents of gas drilling believe it can contaminate drinking water over a large area. In the documentary Gasland, a Dimrock, Penn. family’s kitchen faucet spouts fire. In Rock Spring, Colo., a rancher is hospitalized after drinking water from his own tap. In Pavillion, Wyo., residents complain that the water tastes terrible and smells of fuel. Perhaps the chemicals can migrate upward through rock; certainly pipelines can crack; definitely videos show unreported spills in North Texas and nationwide.

Fifth, opponents worry about earthquakes caused by gas drilling. Industry representatives admitted to the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force that recent Cleburne earthquakes likely resulted from its injection wells. The earth also shook in nearby Waxahachie, Grand Prairie, Fort Worth and at DFW International Airport.

All this is before most North Texas drilling sites have been exploited. In states with many drilling sites, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, recent quakes have made national headlines.

Back now to our city’s aforementioned task force. It comprised three “citizen representatives,” three “subject-matter experts,” three “industry representatives,” Chair Lois Finkelman, and Parks Board President Joan Walne. You can check out its proceedings at DallasGasDrillingTaskForce.com.

After several months, the task force has issued recommendations that will — with City Council approval — govern the operations of XTO, Trinity East, and other private and/or corporate leaseholders.

The task force may have been surprised when, at its final meeting on Feb. 28, a group organized as Dallas Residents at Risk arrived at the City Hall meeting room with a full-color map dotted with scores of lease sites. Again, you can refer to Crawford’s site, DallasDrilling.Wordpress.com for more.

Even before the new map appeared, Dallas Area Residents for Responsible Drilling, Mountain Creek Neighborhood Alliance, Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Downwinders at Risk, the Sierra Club — Raymond and his fellow environmentalists — were unhappy with the recommendations to which the task force seemed ready to agree.

At a minimum, they want the following five requirements added to the task force’s recommended standards: 1) 3,000-foot setback from homes, businesses, churches and the like; 2) full disclosure of all chemicals, so first responders are never endangered; 3) no exporting of Dallas water to operations outside the city; 4) company offsets for emissions from gas drilling operations; and 5) an industry-funded oversight office to respond to problems as they arise.

I would add five further requirements:  6) No drilling in floodplains; 7) no drilling on city-owned parklands; 8) translation of all leases into standard, straightforward English; 9) free copies of all leases made available to the public on request; and 10) evening meetings in each City Council district before drilling is approved.

Again, decisions on gas fracking operations in Dallas are now in the hands of the City Council and Mayor Mike Rawlings. Crawford and his colleagues are working hard to assure our safety.

The least you and I can do is fax, email, snail mail and visit every councilmember with our concerns. Let’s call on the mayor, too.

Because LGBTs deserve clean air and water as much as everyone else. And when our community unites in action, we get results.

One last thing: Check your homeowner’s insurance policy for earthquake damage coverage. You won’t find it. It costs extra.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Send comments to editor@dallasvoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 16, 2012.

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