The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in a memo last month said on-site investigations related to complaints to the Dallas/Fort Worth regional office, which oversees the Barnett Shale’s air quality, are to be given an “immediate response priority” within 12 hours of receiving a complaint.

The revision in policy by the state’s air regulatory agency comes after some North Texas residents who live in the Barnett Shale region complained about air-related illnesses and possible harmful emissions from regional natural gas and oil production sites.

Last month the TCEQ launched a website to distribute information about air pollution testing in the Barnett Shale (see Daily GPI, Dec. 18, 2009). An interim study released in October by the TCEQ on ambient air quality in the region found harmful concentrations of benzene at some drilling locations (see Daily GPI, Nov. 5, 2009).

The two-page interoffice memo, written by TCEQ’s John Sadlier, deputy director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement, said the staff is to discuss the “citizen-collected evidence” with the complainant. TCEQ staff members also were told to investigate the complaints using infrared cameras and ambient air quality testing equipment.

“When high readings are documented, staff will immediately make every effort to contact the owner/operator of the equipment and make them aware of the agency findings and request that the company take immediate corrective action,” Sadlier wrote. “The company will be given two days to respond to the request, including cause of the emissions and corrective actions taken to resolve the situation.”

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