I've written previously about two Texas studies issued this year that found harmful air contamination related to oil and gas operations. One study found that natural gas drilling in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolian area is generating considerable emissions of air toxic compounds like benzene and formaldehyde--more than motor vehicles in the region. And a more recent study of the air quality in the small town of DISH, Texas found multiple recognized and suspected human carcinogens in several locations at levels in excess of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Short Term and Long Term Effects Screening Levels (ESLs).
Now a third report has been released. It analyzed the air quality at a dairy goat farm in the Barnett shale area. According to a Fort Worth Star Telegram article, this analysis found benzene, toluene, and ten different compounds that exceeded the Texas ESLs, in some cases by several times, both for short-term and long-term exposure.
The Star-Telegram also reports that neither the TCEQ, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nor the Texas Railroad Commission regularly monitor emissions from these oil and gas activities. This is why a private individual and a small town decided to fund these studies themselves. An official of the TCEQ is even quoted as saying that "violations of the screening levels set by the state do not mean certain compounds are unhealthy."
What is most disturbing to me is that many solutions are availble to the industry to protect human health. Congress is overdue in updating the Clean Air Act to close the loopholes that allow oil and gas operators to contaminate our air with hazardous pollutants known to be harmful to human health. These businesses should have to comply with the same laws as any other company.