Between and , some 2, wells had been drilled within the city of Fort Worth, which lies atop the Barnett Shale formation, and six times that many were drilled in nearby communities. Tanker trucks rumbled past suburban lawns. Flares burned next to schools and playgrounds. An industry normally hidden in rural areas was suddenly visible to suburbanites, some of whom were frightened and incensed by the intrusion. It also tightened its permit-by-rule regulations in the region.
The TCEQ was going to extend the new rules statewide, but in the legislature stepped in and passed a bill that effectively blocked the plan. A agency memo shows the TCEQ was fully aware that drilling companies needed more oversight. The demographic differences may help explain why the city of Dallas recently passed one of the strictest setback rules in the country: No well can be drilled within 1, feet of homes, schools, churches and other sensitive locations.
Texas has no statewide setbacks, aside from a 1,foot buffer zone for facilities with high levels of hydrogen sulfide. For all other oil and gas sites, it relies on communities to take the lead. Every month, the Texas Railroad Commission updates an online map of drilling activity in the Eagle Ford, using green dots to represent oil wells and red dots to represent gas wells.
Shaw, whose husband works in the oil industry, admits that the boom has brought about some unpleasant changes in the county of 15, Traffic deaths rose from two in to 25 in , trucks are tearing up the roads, and monthly rents on houses have quadrupled, pricing out those with modest incomes. Still, Shaw believes the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Asked how poorer residents of places like Karnes City could expect to benefit, Everley said they might be able to find jobs in restaurants, or as truck drivers.
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What about those whose lives have been disrupted, like the Buehrings and Mary Alice Longoria? Still, Everley made it clear he believes most of the naysayers are simply anti-drilling. Are we going to relegate an entire section of the state to continued poverty or are we going to move forward with economic development? The couple, who were both born in Karnes County, began working the land soon after they were married 46 years ago.
Nolan ran a farm and cattle ranch.
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Mary raised the children, two sons and a daughter, and taught math at Karnes City Junior High School for 20 years. There were a few good years and a lot of bad ones, some really bad. Sometimes the land was so parched the crops withered, and the prairie grass dried so brittle the cattle had little to fill their stomachs. But Nolan never gave up on his land. This was his home, his livelihood and his way of life. Then came the Eagle Ford boom, and fortune was right underfoot.
The Jonases sold their mineral rights to an oil development company. Rotten eggs? Something oily? Will it harm them or their grandchildren, who play on a swing set as a bright orange flare trails smoke in the background? To hear Everley tell it, the good will continue indefinitely. The Eagle Ford figures to produce for many years to come, and the industry is eyeing a new area — the Cline Shale in West Texas — for development. Covar was the deputy executive director in , and did not become executive director until A few months later, the legislature overwhelmingly approved SB, a bill that effectively prevented the new regulations from being applied in the Eagle Ford Shale region of South Texas, one of the fastest-growing oil shale plays in the nation.
Since then, more than 2, air emissions permits have been issued in the Eagle Ford without additional safeguards that would have reduced the amounts of benzene, hydrogen sulfide, formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals that drift into the air breathed by 1. State Rep. Tom Craddick, who championed the House version of SB, owns stock in nine oil companies, five of which are active in the Eagle Ford. For decades he had a lucrative partnership with Mustang Mud, an oilfield supply company. The Railroad Commission, which issues drilling permits, has been criticized for years for allowing its three commissioners to accept campaign contributions from the industry they regulate.
But with support from the House Energy Resources Committee, of which Tom Craddick is a member, it has beaten back attempts at reform. Since he has been in office, Abbott has sued the U. Environmental Protection Agency 18 times for interfering in Texas affairs. Supporters say the oil and gas industry has been good to Texas, and they are right. It has been particularly important to counties in the Eagle Ford.
The downside of this surge in prosperity is the introduction of industrial-type air pollution to a rural area where people of limited means rarely share in the bounty and have little defense against an industry as iconic in Texas as longhorn steers. Tim Kleinschmidt, a Republican who represents Karnes County in the state legislature, is no stranger to that industry.
He has leased some of his own land to oil companies in the past, and the law firm where he practices specializes in negotiating oil and gas agreements. While his focus is now on commercial real estate, his first work for the firm was on those leases. He acknowledges that the boom has created environmental and infrastructure challenges. On tours of the region he hears complaints about both. The year-old nun-turned-activist speeds through the Eagle Ford in her white Honda Civic, intent on exposing the ills she believes have been forced on residents by the oil and gas industry.
About 23 percent have incomes below the federal poverty line, compared to 17 percent statewide and 15 percent nationally. Soward is now president of the board of Air Alliance Houston, an organization dedicated to reducing air pollution. People who suffer the effects of oil and gas emissions have few places to turn for help other than to the politicians and regulatory agencies that are often cheerleaders for, and financially beholden to, the industry.
In the last legislative session, Burnam introduced 12 bills that would have regulated or taxed the industry in some way. Most died in the House Energy Resources Committee, where six of the 11 members, including Craddick, own stock or receive royalties from the industry, according to their personal financial disclosures.
Sometimes it seems that everyone in Texas is connected in some way to the oil business, including even Burnam. Over the years, Robinson Drilling has been penalized by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for numerous safety violations. One worker has been paralyzed.
Although Crownover benefits personally from the industry, she said she listens to diverse opinions when considering legislation before the committee. They will not be heard because that is going against the interest of business. The TCEQ, like the state legislature, is intertwined with the industry. Complaints from people in North Texas, where a gas-drilling boom had begun in the Barnett Shale in , were drawing unwanted attention from the EPA.
And a TCEQ study had found underestimated or previously undetected emissions at oil and gas sites. I think they were looking for a way out, not for a way to make things better. The regulations required operators to install leak-detection systems and emission-control devices on equipment where none had been required before, and to reduce emissions when starting, shutting down and maintaining their wells.
Operators of new wells would have to sample their releases and make the results available to state regulators. They would also be required to coat their storage tanks with reflective paint to reduce heat-generated emissions. The rules were unexceptional when compared with regulations being considered in Colorado, also a major drilling state. But for the pro-industry Texas legislature, they went too far. State Sen. Glenn Hegar, a Republican, led the opposition in the Senate while Craddick led the fight in the House.
SB prohibited the TCEQ from extending the new rules outside the Barnett Shale unless the agency first performed a time-consuming and costly analysis for each well application, proving that the benefit of improved air quality justified the additional cost to the operator. Hegar, who is now running for state comptroller, prepared talking points to show where the TCEQ had erred. Instead of taking air samples in places where facilities were exceeding their state-approved emissions levels, samples should be taken in areas where facilities were in compliance, according to the undated talking points Hegar used to explain his objections to the rules.
It prohibited the agency from using tax dollars to perform the cost-benefit analyses. A year after the legislation became law, the TCEQ voluntarily narrowed the focus of its rules. During that same period, the legislature cut the entire Texas budget just 8 percent. As the legislature was limiting the new air pollution rules, it was also snuffing out an attempt to reform the Texas Railroad Commission, which has long been criticized for bowing to powerful interests.
The Sunset Advisory Commission, a legislative body charged with reviewing the efficiency of Texas agencies, urged legislators to dramatically reform the Railroad Commission. Among other things, it recommended that the Railroad Commission have one elected commissioner instead of three and that key decisions be made not by the commissioner but by independent administrative judges. He also introduced legislation to force the changes. But the core reforms died in the House Energy Resources Committee, where Keffer, the nine-term Republican with hefty energy investments, presided over their demise.
The committee, and then the full House, voted to keep three elected commissioners, but the House and Senate could agree only to defer the issue for two years. It recommended that commissioners be barred from taking campaign contributions from the industry they regulate — and that they be required to resign if they run for another office.
Tom Craddick, who sits on the committee, had a personal stake in the outcome of this fight. Had the legislation been approved, his daughter, Christi, the railroad commissioner, would no longer be able to accept donations from the industry, whose contributions to her campaign accounted for 25 percent of her war chest. The legislature later approved a bill that barred railroad commissioners from running for another office without first resigning from the commission, but Gov.
Perry vetoed that bill. Its provisions would have applied to Chairman Barry Smitherman, who is currently running for Texas attorney general. According to campaign information filed on Jan. Two families in a community just west of Fort Worth had complained that dangerous amounts of methane and benzene were poisoning their water wells. It blamed the contamination on gas wells operated by Range Resources, and ordered the company to take a number of actions to solve the problem. Jones resigned from the commission in to run unsuccessfully for the state senate.
She is now a policy advisor at Patton Boggs, a Washington D. Williams left the commission in to campaign for a U. Senate seat. He soon switched gears to run for an open U. House seat instead, but lost in the Republican primary. In , Gov. The EPA eventually withdrew its order against Range Resources, saying it wanted to avoid an expensive legal battle. Burnam, the Fort Worth Democrat who has tried for years to rein in the industry, has grown accustomed to such defeats. Last year Burnam introduced legislation that included many of the environmental safeguards Colorado has adopted to police the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing.
Had the bill passed, companies would have been required to notify local officials before drilling within 1, feet of nursing homes, schools, hospitals and other occupied buildings. Companies also would have had to provide safety and health information to nearby residents through a public outreach program. But opposition materialized quickly. TOC Photo Buttons.
TOC Mobile. Video: Fracking Smoke Day. Big Oil and Bad Air. Photo: Welcome to Karnes. Photo: Night Gas Flares. Patchy Monitoring.
Photo: Cynthia Dupnik. On Their Honor. Photo: Fred and Amber Lyssy. Many Violations, Few Fines. Photo: Lynn Buehring. Lessons from the Barnett Shale. Photo: Toy Horse.
No End in Sight. Photo: Night Fracking.
Running on Oil. Photo: Smoke. Business Comes First. Photo: Mayor Payne. Modest Rules Ignite Uproar. Photo: Fracking Near Home. Reforms Fail Again and Again. Photo: Lyssy Fracking. Industry Boosters. Photo: Night Flare and Smoke. Money Fuels Influence. Video: Distant Fracking. Built with Creatavist. The Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas is the site of one of the biggest energy booms in America, with oil and gas wells sprouting at an unprecedented rate.
But local residents fear for their health - not from the water, but from the air they breathe. Our eight-month investigation reveals the dangers that come with releasing a toxic soup of chemicals into the air and just how little the government of Texas knows - or wants to know - about it. A welcome sign is seen in Karnes City. Gas flares from well sites over the Eagle Ford shale emit light and toxic smoke in Karnes County, Texas. Cynthia Dupnik voices her concerns and frustrations at a public presentation by Earthworks that details their findings of oil and gas production emissions and failings in regulation by TCEQ in the Eagle Ford shale play.
She could read it in the TSA line at the airport with plenty of time to spare. The legislature sent her an almost identical bill last year, just two pages, and she actually vetoed that version of the bill because of actually a separate skirmish with the legislature and that, of course, drew less national political heat. This time is different. Now, as local and national businesses are making their voices heard, politicians, both in and outside of Arizona, are pushing to distance themselves from the law.
And State Senator Steve Pierce told Chris Hayes last night, it was just -- you know, it was some sort of crazy mix-up. And so, we made a mistake. They went the wrong way. Discrimination against any of us is discrimination against all of us, and politicians who invoke religious freedom for discrimination make for very bad allies.
We have to see. But a similar measure is also winding its way through the Georgia legislature. We have a federal constitution to protect our rights, but just like the old saying about politics, most discrimination is still local. Governor Brewer can re-read this two-page bill all she wants. Now, joining us to talk about this is Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona. Thanks for joining us. This bill does not represent who we are. Arizona is a beautiful, welcoming state.
In my district, we have the Grand Canyon, which brings millions of dollars in revenue, thousands of jobs. What Arizona needs right now, after being hit so hard in the great recession, is jobs. Not this. How did the speaker of the house, Andy Tobin, allow this bill and why did he ramrod it through the legislature? You know, Arizona is supposed to be hosting the Super Bowl next year.
That has to be our focus. It is a business story. It starts out, though, first and foremost, I think, as an equality story and whether this kind of discrimination should be authorized and written into the law. Congresswoman, thank you so much for your time tonight. Thank you. A Muslim cab driver could refuse to drive home someone from a bar because his faith disapproves of drinking alcohol. Someone in a grocery store could refuse to sell groceries to a single parent because she believes that having children out of wedlock or premarital sex is wrong.
This way lie chaos. Strong ruling from the Supreme Court back all the way in against, as you mentioned, a Colorado rule that was trying to single out gay citizens. Justice Kennedy writes of that rule, "Its sheer breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it.
The amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects. It lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests.
And yet from what we can tell, this kind of rule as Dan mentions would almost certainly be unconstitutional if enacted. What this bill is, is a license to discriminate. And, of course, legislative purpose is relevant to that. Relevant as a legal inquiry and relevant to politics when we know what kind of basically politicking and gay-baiting has gone on here. Take a listen. You know, this bedrock principle is immutable. It is timeless. Today, the U. What did you make of that? To finally be written in to full citizenship in this country, LGBT people, is, you know, literally not something I thought I would see in my lifetime.
I do hope that this catches on and spreads. Right now, people can be fired in Arizona or denied services or thrown out of their apartments for being gay, lesbian, bi, or transgendered.
Three Texas Families Who Took a Pass on the Fracking Boom
We reported on that. I know Chris Hayes reported on that. So, definitely a mixed ruling. MELBER: And tomorrow, Chris will have an ALL IN investigation into the groups and the people that are behind the push to pass these anti-gay laws across the country under what we think is the guise of religious freedom. It does enormous long-term damage to our military. You know, you turn it on and off.
All In With Chris Hayes, Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
You heard that right. Now, the administration had hoped to make an agreement with the Karzai government that would keep some kind of U. Now, the decision is coming, of course, just one day after the Pentagon announced plans to scale back military spending partly due to Republican demands in the sequester. The proposed cuts were announced by Secretary Hagel yesterday. This is the context behind these headlines. In the middle, the proposed level, and on the right, levels.
And here are total numbers. So, while it may be sure, technically accurate, these cuts will bring about the smallest force since before World War II, the proposed force would still, it would still be far greater than the troop levels of and not actually in the big swing of things a huge reduction from current levels. Joining us to unpack this further, Larry Korb, a senior fellow at the Center of American Progress and a man who knows a thing or two about the Pentagon for serving as assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan.
Thanks for being with us. We see a lot of headlines about the decline in the force, but we also know we still spend far more than many other countries combined on our military. KORB: We spent more than the next 16 nations, biggest spenders in the world combined. And back in , right before Pearl Harbor, we were the 17th in terms of military spending and the size of the force. The Army and the Marines grew to fight the land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and after every war, you bring them back down.
When it comes to Dick Cheney on these issues, the fact check takes a lot longer than the original lie. These are their cuts. Senator Rubio also hypocritically lashing out at the president today when he wanted these cuts. And it turns out, Dick Cheney having been a defense secretary, certainly knows this. It turns out a lot of food stamps go to military families.
I want to put up a Defense Department review that showed last year military families more reliant on food stamps in than any previous year. So, the former vice president there doubly wrong, number one. There actually have been food stamp cuts as well. And the other thing, nondefense discretionary spending has actually grown less under Obama than defense has.
Before I let you go, real quick, on the foreign policy question, your reaction to this DOD announcement today regarding Karzai. He really thinks we want to stay more than he needs us. But I do understand some of the complexity regarding the cat and mouse game there of trying to show him we are serious on a foreign policy footing. Really great to hear your thoughts tonight former assistant secretary of defense, Larry Korb. KORB: Thank you for having me. You voted for me twice. I love Kentucky.
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When Alison got in this race and I talked about it, I said, your opponent is a genius at that ladder course. He skated a couple of elections here doing that. Now, McConnell is facing perhaps the toughest Senate election of his career. Republican primary that year saw a guy you might recognize, Rand Paul.
He was said to have hand picked Grayson and, of course, publicly endorsed him. He had a self- preservation problem. So, what did he do? He could at least go out and hire their general. There is no excuse for that. Someone who take s advantage of a young girl in their office. The last time he ran in , he eked out a narrow victory in Kentucky while I beat the current governor by , votes, 10 points. In , both Bill and Hillary Clinton came to town, including the day before the election, and I won by , votes. So I welcome President Clinton back to Kentucky.
Joining us is one of the other people who spoke at that rally today, Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky. How are you? You know, if -- there was a poll recently in Kentucky among Republicans. And 59 percent to 27 percent, Republicans prefer Rand Paul. So what Mitch is trying to do right now, obviously, is to cozy up to Rand Paul as best he can.
He drove literally miles to Bowling Green, Kentucky, so that Rand Paul would sign his filing papers. Go ahead. And they asked him why he endorsed Senator McConnell. He said, well, he asked me and, well, he was the only person in the race at the time. So, I mean, if there was ever a more lukewarm reason for endorsing Senator McConnell, he gave it. This is an association of kind of expediency between the two of them. But, in the final analysis, this is going to be a referendum on Mitch McConnell.
Let me jump in again, sir. Mitt Romney won the state by 23 points. But look at it this way, too. He has a primary opponent, Matt Bevin, who is causing him some heartache. And all eyes have been on Kentucky. So, I know it was a busy day for you. There is a real -- there is a real natural chemistry between you two.