Courtesy Texas Tribune
When a Dallas jury awarded three million dollars to a North Texas family in their case against a drilling company, people wondered what it could mean for fracking and its opponents. But the case also highlights a growing health concern in Texasâ€™ booming oil and gas fields.
For years, a lot of the debate around the drilling boom focused on its potential to pollute groundwater. Lately concerns over water seem to have been overtaken by a new worry, one exemplified in the recent multi-million dollar jury verdict.
“This lawsuit was really a lawsuit about air emissions from the totality of unconventional shale gas development,â€ Brad Gilde, a lawyer for the Parr family, tells StateImpact Texas.
In that lawsuit, the Parrs say that Aruba Petroleumâ€™s natural gas operations near their Wise County ranch, outside of Fort Worth, made them sick. At the trial, they brought in medical experts to show how contaminants used by drillers were found in their bodies.
In the last several months, a handful of reports have come out showing how drilling emits pollution in populated parts of Texas. One investigation by the Center for Public Integrity focused on South Texas. Another from the Alamo Area Council of Governments found that the oil boom was worsening air quality in San Antonio. Then there was a study from the University of Texas at Austin about air pollution in the North Texas shale region where the Parrs live.
“We need to acknowledge that there is a lot of uncertainty of the effects of toxic emissions on health, especially childrenâ€™s healthâ€ says Rachael Rawlins, the author of the UT Austin study. “And given that uncertainty, we need to think about planning and setbacks and just doing our best in locating industrial activities in urban areas.â€
That last suggestion seems to have the support of Lisa Parr.