Earlier this year, another study confirmed that children living near fracking wells are more vulnerable to health issues. Of course, it’s not only children who are vulnerable. What’s happening in one American community serves as a warning to us all.
From Mother Jones:
When the Frackers Get Too Close for Comfort
America bet big on shale fuels. Now towns like Arlington, Texas, are stuck with the consequences.
This story was produced by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. (You can sign up for Reveal’s newsletter at revealnews.org/newsletter.)
When Wanda Vincent looks out the windows of her daycare center in Arlington, Texas, past the playground, she sees a row of enormous beige storage tanks. They’re connected to two wells that produce natural gas for Total, one the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. No government agency—city, state or federal—monitors the air here or inspects regularly for emissions. So Vincent has no way of knowing whether dangerous gases are leaking out of all that equipment, potentially harming the children and staff who spend their days so close to those wells.
She feels surrounded. Within two miles of her daycare, 35 wells produce gas at six different sites, most of them operated by TEP Barnett USA, a subsidiary of the French energy giant Total, the dominant gas producer in Arlington. The diverse Dallas suburb of 400,000 has the fortune and misfortune of sitting atop one of the country’s largest onshore natural gas fields, the Barnett Shale.
“No one is held accountable to determine whether it’s safe or not, and yet they allow them to be there,” Vincent said. “There’s not any documentation showing we’ve done testing and you’re safe.”
During the pandemic, Vincent learned that Total wanted to drill three more wells behind her playground. Nobody had told her: “It makes me feel like they don’t value our lives.”
Last year, as the Black and Latinx neighborhood around her daycare was grappling with high COVID-19 numbers, Vincent learned from a local activist that Total wanted to drill three more wells behind her playground. Neither the company nor the city had informed her, and she took that personally. “I’m African American, and it makes me feel like they don’t value our lives.”
Twenty years of fracking in the United States has delivered not only energy independence, but also an expanding export industry in oil, natural gas and liquified natural gas. America’s drilling boom, led by Texas, has also brought heavy industry into many rural and urban communities. Millions of people now live in the shadow of oil and gas wells, unwitting participants in a massive experiment with their health. That drilling poses substantial risks to the climate as well, because methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas.