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Scrutiny urged as Eagle Ford Shale boom continues

By Dianna Wray
March 17, 2012 at 9:02 p.m.
Updated March 17, 2012 at 10:18 p.m.

Wilma Subra answers questions about possible impact of emissions from Eagle Ford Shale production. Subra was one of three speakers on Saturday.

CUERO - Headaches, dizziness, vomiting, skin rashes - the list went on and on as Wilma Subra catalogued the possible side effects of toxic emissions from living close to drilling and production sites.

Subra, the president and founder of Subra Company - a company that provides technical assistance to community groups dealing with environmental issues - conducted a seminar Saturday to help educate people about the Eagle Ford production area.

"A large number of people don't have any idea what's going on. They know there are new facilities going in ... and they don't have any idea what impact it's having on the environment," Subra said.

Subra stood in the Cuero Municipal Park Clubhouse talking to about a dozen people about some of the dangers that come with drilling.

"There's a lot of things going on. There's a lot of activity in your area and there aren't a lot of state agencies policing it, so you're at the mercy of the drilling companies," Subra told the audience.

The meeting lasted about three hours and members of the audience peppered Subra, Sharon Wilson and Cathy McMullen - all of whom have dealt with issues concerning the Barnett Shale in North Texas - with questions.

Wilson played four videos obtained from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality through an open records request. The videos were taken during TCEQ helicopter flyovers of drill sites in the Eagle Ford Shale. Using infrared cameras, Wilson said the videos showed where these sites were leaking things into the air not visible to the human eye.

"This is a lot," Wilson said, gesturing to the black clouds that the TCEQ film showed from a Yorktown well site. "It all leaks. At every stage there are leaks."

As drilling continues in the Eagle Ford Shale, the Neighbor to Neighbor series is designed to give community members a place to come and get information about how the energy boom may impact their community, event organizer Sister Elizabeth Riebschlaeger said.

"What we're trying to do is to develop eyes and ears and to be aware so that we can bring these things to the attention of our neighbors," Riebschlaeger said.

Subra said it is important that people learn about some of the possible problems so they can be watchful and ready to report any signs they might see.

McMullen acknowledged that oil production is unlikely to stop in Texas, but she urged community members to push for it to be done right.

"We're going to have drilling. That's just what's going to happen, but it doesn't have to be in a slash and burn way. It can be done responsibly," McMullen said.

Lauren Bartholomew, of Cuero, said she and her husband came to the presentation to learn about what the potential risks are because they have a production facility two miles from their home.

"I want to learn about the real risks because I think we're probably going to benefit from the production money, but I'm trying to get an idea of what my property will be worth in 20 years," she said.

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