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Texas Legislators Talk Future of Hydraulic Fracking and Oil and Gas Industry Water Consumption

June 29th, 2012

According to an article featured in the Texas Tribune,members of the natural gas drilling industry testified at a joint state Housecommittee hearing on June 27. 2012. Reportedly, the natural gas industry representatives said that they wereworking to reduce their water consumption by recycling water. According to the Texas Tribune, the hearing addressedtwo main concerns of the oil and gas industry: (1) water shortages; and (2)hydraulic fracturing. The state of Texasis recovering from one of the worst droughts in recorded history and the oiland gas industry has been highly criticized for excessive water consumption. Hydraulic fracking is the process by which oiland gas companies inject a chemical mixture into earth at high pressure inorder to free trapped fossil fuels. Theprocess has been accused of being the possible source of water contamination. According to the Tribune, the hearing was heldin front of the House Energy and the Natural Resource committees.

The Texas Tribune reported that both environmentalistsand industry representatives spoke at the hearing. Reportedly, the Texas Rail Road Commissionis also said it was brain storming for ideas which will help the industryrecycle water. According to the Tribune,recycling water is more costly for companies than putting wastewater in adisposal well and buying fresh or brackish water, and tax incentives proposedin past legislative sessions to get drilling companies to recycle have failed.

Reportedly, some oil and gas representatives felt thatenabling companies to obtain commercial recycling permits without jumpingthrough so many hoops would incentivize the industry to recycle water. The Tribune reported that some representativeseven suggest that the recycled water be used for crop irrigation andcattle. Accordingto the Water Development Board, oil and gas companies accounted for about 2percent of the state's water usage in 2010. According the Tribune, Railroad Commissioner David Porter said that the totalis a relatively small amount, especially when compared with agricultural irrigation's56 percent, and municipal water use accounting for 27 percent of the state’s2010 usage.

According to the Tribune, environmentalists and others argued that althoughthe overall percentage used by oil and gas is relatively low, communitiesaround fracturing wells can be disproportionately and significantly affected. Reportedly, Ron Green, a hydrologist with theSan Antonio-based Southwest Research Institute, testified that South Texas' Winter Garden region has been especiallyaffected because of increased pumping of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer asa result of the Eagle Ford Shale boom, and that water levels have beendevastated. In regard to disposal wellcontamination, the Tribune reported that L'Oreal Stepney,deputy director of the Office of Water at the Texas Commission on EnvironmentalQuality, said that of the 4,000 reported cases of contaminated water in thestate in 2010, none were linked to pollution from disposal wells. However, sources say that others insisted thescience is not sufficient to rule out a threat to the water supplies.

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