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Barnett shale environmentalists come to town to talk fracking

By Dianna Wray
Feb. 4, 2012 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 4, 2012 at 8:05 p.m.


CUERO - Standing in front of a dry-erase board, petroleum engineer Kathy Martin sketched a drawing of a vertical well, the kind commonly used to drill the Eagle Ford Shale.

"Oil companies always say there's a mile of rock between their drilling and the aquifer, but if there's a fault, that stuff can get through. Everything likes to take the path of least resistance, teenagers included."

People in the audience laughed softly at the joke, but stayed focused on the task at hand - learning about fracking.

Martin, environmentalist Sharon Wilson, and Ramon Alvarez, a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund of Austin spoke at a Neighbor to Neighbor town hall meeting on Saturday. They were there to talk about the fracking technique and what environmental risks this method of extracting oil and natural gas from brittle shale formations may pose to a community.

Wilson has been blogging about environmental concerns in the Barnett Shale, a formation lying under North Texas, since 2006. Alvarez and Martin are both advisors to the City of Dallas Task Force created to develop fracking regulations for Dallas.

All three were at the Neighbor to Neighbor meeting to discuss fracking, but they were intent on making their audience of about 30 people aware of how they need to work together now to avoid dealing with the problems those on top of the Barnett Shale have struggled with.

"I want to help the people in the Eagle Ford Shale get organized ... We have to start informing people, and pressuring our legislators to get better drilling practices in this state," Wilson said.

At the close of the meeting, Sister Elizabeth Riebschlaeger, the organizer of the event, urged people in the audience to ask questions and talk to local lawmakers about the drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale.

"It was Edmund Burke who said, 'Evil can only triumph when good people do nothing,' so when good people wake up and do something they'll outweigh the bad," she said. "They really do listen if we speak up. The question is, will we speak up?"

With Cuero at the center of the oil boom, Mayor Sara Post Meyer attends each of these monthly meeting. Meyer said she is working hard to learn about various pitfalls and possibilities before they happen.

"We are concerned. We want to make sure our community can withstand the boom. We're a small town and we want to keep that environment. We want to be prepared," Meyer said. "These folks have already been through it, so if we can learn from them, we don't have to reinvent the wheel."

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