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Industry Advocate Calls Barnett Report a 'Hoax'

Board members of the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) are mulling a report they received Tuesday that recommends significant policy changes for gas drilling near schools and are expected to discuss the items early next month. However, the executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council (BSEEC) told NGI's Shale Daily the document they are holding is essentially "a hoax."

The Fort Worth League of Neighborhood Associations (FWLNA) presented its report to FWISD board members Tuesday evening at a regular meeting of the board. Ed Ireland, BSEEC executive director who was at the meeting, said some of the board members expressed frustration that they were not given the report sooner so they would have time to consider it. "'How can I believe what you just said? I haven't read it,'" Ireland recalled one board member saying.

But even once they read the report the board members should not believe it, Ireland said, as its recommendations -- such as siting natural gas wells at least one mile from schools and requiring strict air monitoring for volatile organic compounds (see Shale Daily, Feb. 23) -- are based on a discredited study.

"When you read the report it's abundantly clear that to assert that they did a study is, at minimum, intellectually dishonest," Ireland said. "They didn't give enough information in that to really indicate what kind of a study they did. I think they didn't really do one. They used some existing data and ran it through an unnamed, unspecified model and through that they say they developed their recommendations, including the one for a one-mile setback. There's no justification for a one-mile setback."

And anyway, telling the FWISD that wells should be one mile from school buildings does not do any good because the board does not have jurisdiction over private property, "so any property owner that's within a mile of the school can choose to lease their mineral rights and even host a drilling site, and the school district can't control that," he said.

Among other claims, the FWLNA report makes assertions about the presence of carbon disulfide from natural gas wells being a threat to school children.

"Of all compounds examined, carbon disulfide, a neurotoxin, proved to be of most concern in this report," the document says. "It was predicted through the model that setbacks of at least one mile would be needed for adequate protections. Carbon disulfide traveled out from the source at levels that were multiples above short-term health benchmarks, in places exceeding these thresholds by 1,000 times."

Ireland said a threat from carbon disulfide is hardly likely in the Barnett Shale where the natural gas is dry and sweet; carbon disulfide is found in natural gas that contains hydrogen sulfide, which Barnett gas produced in Fort Worth does not.

Additionally, the FWLNA cites a study that purported to have found carbon disulfide levels exceeding those allowed by permit in two areas. However, Ireland said an analysis of that study by the city of Fort Worth found that the lab and instruments used were not qualified to test for carbon disulfide.

"They weren't certified to test for it; the equipment wasn't certified to test for it...but they guessed that it was carbon disulfide," Ireland said. "...[I]t's certainly not anything that you would base a policy recommendation on.

"At a minimum it's intellectually dishonest. It makes a lot of assertions, but they really aren't backed up by anything in that report that I can see."

FWISD board members will be reviewing the report in advance of a meeting scheduled for March 8.

"The item was a presentation only [Tuesday] and the board members were only provided copies for the first time last evening," a FWISD spokesman told NGI's Shale Daily. "So there was no decision and their opinions will be forthcoming as they study the report. The board had requested a moratorium on considering any new leases until March or after to give studies such as this one time to surface."

BSEEC was founded four years ago with seed money from several natural gas companies active in the Barnett Shale.

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