Scientists Link Fracking to Explosion That Severely Injured Texas Family
Scientists have determined that methane from a fracked well contaminated a Texas family's water supply and triggered an explosion that nearly killed four members of the family.
The family's ranch in Palo Pinto County is located only a few thousand feet away from a natural gas well.
Scientists have found that methane escaped from a poorly constructed natural gas well and leached into a Texas family's water well, causing it to explode.WFAA
In August 2014, former oil field worker Cody Murray, his father, wife and young daughter were severely burned and hospitalized from a "fireball" that erupted from the family's pump house.
A year later, the family filed a lawsuit against oil and gas operators EOG Resources and Fairway Resources, claiming the defendants' drilling and extraction activities caused the high-level methane contamination of the Murrays' water well.
"At the flip of the switch, Cody heard a 'whooshing' sound, which he instantly recognized from his work in the oil and gas industry, and instinctively picked his father up and physically threw him back and away from the entryway to the pump house," the complaint states. "In that instant, a giant fireball erupted from the pump house, burning Cody and [his father], who were at the entrance to the pump house, as well as Ashley and A.M., who were approximately twenty feet away."
While the state's oil and gas regulator—the Texas Railroad Commission—has yet to definitely prove what caused the blast, new scientific studies commissioned by the Murrays' attorneys has directly linked the explosion to fracking operations.
As the Texas Tribune detailed, the studies found that methane and drilling mud chemicals had escaped from a poorly sealed Fairway gas well and traveled through underground fractures and eventually into the Murrays' water supply.
The hired experts include Thomas Darrah, a geochemist at Ohio State University; Franklin Schwartz, an Ohio State University hydrologist; Zacariah Hildenbrand, chief scientific officer at Inform Environmental; and Anthony Ingraffea, a civil engineering professor at a Cornell University with expertise in fracking.
JUST IN: #Fracking Caused 6,648 Spills in Four States Alone, Duke Study Finds https://t.co/apHTR7cO2W @MarkRuffalo @DukeEnvironment @nrdc— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1487694031.0
"The timing is undeniable, the location is undeniable, the chemistry of the gas is undeniable," Chris Hamilton, the Murray's attorney, told news station WFAA. "This is not naturally occurring gas. This is gas that came from 4 to 6-thousand feet below the ground."
Hamilton shared a video with WFAA that shows the bubbling, methane-saturated water that caused the 2014 explosion.
"What you can see in the video here is just super carbonated water that is saturated with methane gas that's bubbling out of the Murray's water," he explained.
"This is an explosive gas," Hamilton added. "Large bubbles and pockets of this methane escaping from a water well, any sort of spark will start a fire."
Groundwater contamination is one of the biggest concerns about unconventional oil and natural gas development. While the industry maintains the safety of the process, in December the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its highly anticipated final report identifying cases of impacts on drinking water at each stage in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.
Final EPA Study Confirms #Fracking Contaminates Drinking Water https://t.co/weTc3OT1Ua (@EcoWatch)— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1482073223.0
Incidentally, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission—a state legislative body that reviews agencies—has been highly critical of the Texas Railroad Commission's effectiveness at regulating the oil and gas industry.
As WFAA reported:
"It's the 3rd such report since 2010, and is critical of Railroad Commission's effectiveness and operations. 'The commission's lack of a strategic approach to enforcement and inability to provide information persists.' The report cites: 'no accurate counts of major violation,' 'no accurate measure of violations referred for legal enforcement action' and '(Oil and gas) operators have a reasonable expectation they will not be penalized.'"
Fairway Resources declined to provide a comment to WFAA due to the ongoing lawsuit. The Texas Railroad Commission also declined to comment citing their ongoing investigation.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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