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Texas Railroad chairperson speaks at GBRA meeting

June 22, 2011 at 1:22 a.m.

Elizabeth Ames Jones, chairman of the Texas railroad commission,  speaks with Cuero resident George Trevino about water usage and the Eagle Ford shale. Jones was a guest speaker Wednesday at the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority monthly meeting because of the dramatic increase in drilling activity.

Elizabeth Ames Jones, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, smiled broadly as she looked out at her audience.

"I'm here to reassure all of you that you have nothing to fear," Jones said.

Jones was a guest speaker at the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority monthly meeting, held Wednesday in Cuero.

About 100 people crammed into the meeting room at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum to hear what she had to say.

Jones was invited to speak at the meeting because of the dramatic increase inf drilling activity in the Eagle Ford shale, GBRA general manager Bill West said.

The Texas Railroad Commission is the agency charged with regulating the oil and natural gas industry.

The Crossroads area has seen an explosion of drilling activity in the area because of hydraulic fracturing and slant drilling to get oil and gas flowing out of the Eagle Ford shale, a formation that runs from Mexico to East Texas.

In the meeting, Jones noted that hydraulic fracturing - where millions of gallons of water and sand are used to get oil wells flowing - has been a controversial issue, with people voicing concerns that the chemical-laced water could contaminate groundwater.

"I'm very much engaged in what's going on in hydraulic fracturing ... and there's not one case where hydraulic fracturing a mile, two miles below the earth has contaminated groundwater," Jones said.

It takes about 2 million to 4 million gallons of water to frac a well. Jones acknowledged that water usage is something to keep an eye on.

The quality of the cement casings that keep the fluids out of the water table as the frac is being done should also be carefully monitored, she said.

Jones recently told a Department of Energy panel that there should be no concern over fracturing fluid contaminating water because it is impossible.

She reiterated that point at the GBRA meeting.

"In Texas, hydraulic fracturing goes so deep below the ground it is geologically impossible for that frac job to get to come back up," Jones told the crowd.

The Texas Senate recently passed legislation requiring companies to disclose the chemicals used to frac wells.

Gov. Rick Perry signed the bill into a law earlier this week. The law is slated to take effect in July 2012.

The Texas Railroad Commissioners are currently writing the rules that will govern how this information is disclosed.

George Trevino, a rancher from Cuero, said he attended the meeting because of his concerns about how hydraulic fracturing may have an impact on water.

Trevino said he supports drilling in the Eagle Ford shale because he supports anything that gets the nation less dependent on foreign oil. However, Trevino wants to make sure water supplies are protected.

"It all relates to water. The energy that we get from water and the energy that we get from the other hydrocarbons - they're all related, they're all connected, so we don't want one to contaminate the other."

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