In previous posts specifically about Torchlight Energy's plan to frack on the Diablo Plateau/Otero Mesa ecosystem, I've discussed the fragile desert environment along with its diversity of flora and fauna. There's another concern: the health, safety and welfare of people.
Torchlight Energy will poison a valuable aquifer with its cauldron of carcinogen chemicals used in fracking - an aquifer now valuable to farmers and ranchers but one day may be to El Pasoans. It is this baneful brew of benzene and other compounds, including methane, that has so many communities from Pennsylvania to California calling for a ban on fracking in their backyards.
It's not just that fracking companies like Torchlight Energy can continue to keep their lengthy list of fracking chemicals a secret while asserting that their "recycled" water and drilling do no harm. Scientists now know how to determine if water contamination comes from fracking. They now see fracker's fingerprints all over contaminated water. Green groups for a long time have said that agencies such as the EPA have underestimated the amount of methane leaked into the water supply.
The result is that city's are rising up and banning fracking. Last year Dallas did so. (Bet this is the first time that you have heard that.) Now with Frack Free Denton and Denton Drilling Awareness Group leading the way Denton is on the verge of saying NO to fracking in next Tuesday's election.
Of course, both Dallas and Denton are banning fracking within their own city limits. The Diablo Plateau is not only outside of El Paso but it is in a different county as well. However, if fracking there would immediately compromise our water and people would be igniting water coming out of their taps, there would be an outcry especially if many people develop skin blisters as is happening in other active fracking areas around the country. (Read the list of harms caused by fracking in Pennsylvania and New York as examples.) Our problem is more long term - the aquifer but could be short term with the added air pollution. (The wind blows from east to west you know during certain times of the year and much of the batch of benzene and other skull and crossbones chemicals that will spill on the desert ground will be blown our way.) It is hard to convince the country club bunch that an ecosystem is worth preserving. It is a bit easier to talk about the health and safety of folks even if they must think long term or believe the results of air monitoring - independent since we really can't depend on the TCEQ.
So what can we do? El Paso City and County might be able to place fees on companies which sell materials or provide labor or equipment to Torchlight or other frackers. I'm sure Torchlight will have to buy sand from El Paso and may have to lease other equipment from here. Put an onerous fee on those products and those services. Of course, some will say that Torchlight will go elsewhere and El Paso will lose the business. However, the cost of transporting sand and other products from too far will be huge.
El Pasoans can also boycott companies that support Torchlight as well as sell to the public.
I'm thinking out loud but that is what we must begin to do if there is any chance of deterring Torchlight or any other company from fracking just over the hill from our city and our county on privately owned land.
It's worth the effort.