The same week that Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill stripping local communities of their ability to control the oil and gas industry, a fracking well exploded in south Texas, spraying a toxic mix of chemicals and forcing the evacuation of 20 families.
The well, one of two that blew out that week, exploded outside of Karnes City in the Eagle Ford shale, one of the most heavily fracked places in the US. The fracking well spewed enough oil, gas, and chemicals to leave a ¼ mile gash of dead vegetation and contaminated land. The blowout also released an unknown amount of methane, a greenhouse gas 85 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
EnCana, the company responsible for the blowout, has barred impacted residents from returning to their homes, pets, and possessions for more than three weeks. Some may never return to their homes, as full decontamination is impossible.
In Texas, a fracking well can be as close as 300 feet from a home. The impacts, from air pollution, to noise, to major well blowouts, caused the Texas city of Denton to pass a regulation that kept fracking out of the city limits. The Denton resolution was voted on in a local ballot measure, and reflected the democratic will of the citizens of Denton.
The shale and fracking industry, which spent large sums to defeat the Denton bill, immediately counter-attacked with lawsuits. The Texas state legislature also floated a bill that would strip Denton and all local governments of the right to regulate the oil and gas industry. The same week that saw the massive blowout in Denton, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott signed the bill into law.
Similar bills have been proposed in Florida and passed in Oklahoma, where oil and gas industry front groups like the Consumer Energy Alliance have lobbied hard for their passage. The destruction caused by the EnCana blowout illustrates why people living in heavily fracked areas deserve a say in how the industry operates.