Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale:

Big Oil and Bad Air on the Texas Prairie 

An eight-month investigation

by InsideClimate News, the Center for Public Integrity and The Weather Channel

ATLANTA, NEW YORK and WASHINGTON D.C. (February 18, 2014)—Deep in the heart of South Texas, oil and gas wells are sprouting at an unprecedented rate, making the Eagle Ford Shale one of the biggest energy booms in America. But the boom could be a bust for local residents who fear for their health, not from the water in the ground, but the very air they breath.

After an eight-month investigation, InsideClimate News, the Center for Public Integrity and The Weather Channel pull back the curtain on the dangers of releasing a toxic soup of chemicals into the air and reveal how little the Texas government knows about drilling pollution in its own state. The project shows that the Texas legislature is intent on keeping it that way.

Some of the key findings of Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil and Bad Air on the Texas Prairie:

  • As drilling takes off in the Eagle Ford, a new group of Texans are now surrounded by a high concentration of wells and other facilities, bringing industrial-sized emissions to the rural countryside.

  • Texas' air monitoring system is so flawed that the state knows almost nothing about the extent of the pollution in the Eagle Ford. Only five permanent air monitors are installed in the 20,000 square mile region, and all are at the fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest. 

  • The number of known emissions violations has skyrocketed, but fines for the industry are low and rarely levied.

  • Many of the politicians who oppose stricter drilling laws have a financial stake in the success of the fracking boom.

In taking a look at who is responsible for the lax oversight of toxic emissions in the Eagle Ford, the reporters explore the backstory on budget cuts to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the state agency charged with regulating air pollution from the industry, at a time when drilling permits increased at unprecedented speed. They also examine the cozy relationship between the industry and the politicians who protect it.

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Lisa Song and Dave Hasemyer and executive editor Susan White of InsideClimate News; award-winning senior reporter and editor Jim Morris and reporter Ben Wieder of the Center for Public Integrity; producer Greg Gilderman of The Weather Channel; photographer Lance Rosenfield, graphic artist Paul Horn and data specialist John Bolger combined their talents to show the consequences of unmitigated oil and gas industry sprawl. 

About InsideClimate News

InsideClimate News is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, non-profit, non-partisan news organization that covers clean energy, carbon energy, nuclear energy and environmental science -- and the territory in between where law, policy and public opinion are shaped. Its mission is to produce clear, objective stories that gives the public and decision-makers the information they need to navigate the heat and emotion of climate and energy debates shaping our world for generations to come.

About The Center for Public Integrity

The Center for Public Integrity, founded in 1989, is one of the country's oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations. Its mission is to serve democracy by revealing abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of public trust by powerful public and private institutions. It has won a number of national journalism awards for its environment and labor coverage.

About The Weather Company: Where the World Gets its Weather

Through The Weather Channel, weather.com, Weather Underground, Intellicast.com and third-party publishing partners, the company provides millions of people every day with the world's best weather forecasts, content and data, connecting with them through television, online, mobile and tablet screens. Through WSI and Weather Central, the company delivers superior professional weather services for the media, aviation, marine and energy sectors. The Weather Company is owned by a consortium made up of NBC Universal and the private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital. For more information, visit www.weather.com/press.

Media Contacts:

Zahra Hirji, InsideClimate News

Phone: 202-352-0557

Email: zahra.hirji@insideclimatenews.org


Gordon Witkin, acting executive editor

Center for Public Integrity

Phone: (202) 481-1220

Email: gwitkin@publicintegrity.org

 

Jazmine Maddox, The Weather Channel Communications

Phone: (770) 226-2010

Email: jazmine.maddox@gmail.com

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