A report by environmental group Earthworks on the Eagle Ford Shale alleges “reckless endangerment” by regulator Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ); however, TCEQ has fired back that Earthworks is being reckless with the facts of its monitoring and enforcement of drilling, fracking and production in the region.

The Earthworks report alleges that TCEQ has been lax in monitoring harmful emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) from drilling, fracking and other activities in the Eagle Ford and that when it does find them, it does little to correct problems. “TCEQ discovered air pollution from oil and gas development operations in Karnes County…so dangerous that TCEQ evacuated its onsite investigators,” Earthworks said.

According to TCEQ’s response, that incident occurred at Marathon Oil’s Yosko No. 1 production facility during a March 1, 2012 reconnaissance investigation of multiple facilities. “…[I]nside the fence line of the [Yosko] facility, the [TCEQ] team detected 1,100 ppm [parts per million] VOC on the production site near the source of a leaking valve…The team evacuated the immediate area where the leak was occurring to prevent exposure.”

TCEQ said Earthworks failed to include in its report — although it had the information from agency documents — that “Marathon staff were present and a repair crew was radioed to the site…Subsequent data received from Marathon on March 5, 2012 documented that the leak was around the valve near the pneumatic controller and had been repaired the day it was discovered, March 1, 2012.”

Marathon Oil did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earthworks also said TCEQ has favored canister sampling of emissions over more comprehensive stationary monitoring sites. “Permanent stationary monitoring equipment should be established by TCEQ to determine longer-term exposures of residents living in the Eagle Ford Shale region,” Earthworks said.

TCEQ shot back that it has been doing that in the Eagle Ford and the Barnett Shale in North Texas where “…this same [Earthworks] group was instrumental in raising alarm over Barnett Shale oil and gas activities in past years [see Shale Daily, April 18, 2011], but when a state-of-the-art automated gas chromatograph monitoring system was installed, these 24-hour monitors indicated there was no threat to human health.”

Earthworks said it is still waiting for TCEQ to make good on a pledge to install air monitoring facilities in the Eagle Ford similar to those in the Barnett. TCEQ responded that it has contracted with the University of Texas for mobile air monitoring up- and downwind of the Eagle Ford production area.

“Specifically,” the agency said, “monitoring for ozone precursors (volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides) will be conducted to determine if there is a significant increase in ozone precursors downwind of the shale play and if the existing Wilson County monitor provides data representative of a large area downwind of the Eagle Ford Shale play.”