An environmentalist in natural gas-dependent Texas is bound and determined to thrust the state’s Democratic Party on the dust heap of history by forcing it to take up an anti-fracking plank on its party platform.
Jere Locke, who runs environmentalist group Texas Drought Project, is gathering signatures across Austin, Texas, in an effort to shoehorn an anti-fracking position onto the Democratic Party’s platform ahead of its convention later in June.
The platform is meant to serve as a type of blueprint to bring the Democratic Party, which has been on the outs in Texas for several years, back to victory. Locke is trying to balance what he thinks is a pragmatic party victory with idealism.
The party platform currently explains that Texas “is blessed with natural gas and oil resources and new hydraulic fracturing technologies for extraction have opened up vast resources.”
Locke believes that the state’s Democrats are too friendly toward the fracking industry — thus, he claims, the Democrats need to add calls for a “verifiable and thorough review of the deleterious effects of hydraulic fracturing.”
Locke and his ilk believe natural gas development contributes to poisoning well water. Yet studies have documented that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas has little effect on water quality. In fact, in one three-year study by the University of Cincinnati, researchers found that fracking did nothing to ground water in five eastern Ohio counties at the center of the Utica shale boom.
“We’re going to take it to the floor,” Locke told reporters, adding that he has been working to cattle prod delegates to the convention to vote on the platform change. “We’re interested in winning, but also in educating people.”
He indicated that Texas energy producers such as CenterPoint Energy, Atmos Energy, Luminant, Oncor and TXU Energy might work in tandem to water down the new rule’s language,
AJ Durrani, a former Shell executive serving on the advisory committee, disagreed with Locke, stating the platform-writing process is consensus driven. It’s written out in the open.
“Every member of that committee has a feeling about how that platform should be written,” he said. “Whenever you have a committee of people, the result is a collective statement that one person might not want, but that most everyone might agree to.”
Locke’s bid to cast a shadow on fracking is complicated by evidence that natural gas has created a type of economic boom the Lone Star State.
A report titled “An Energy Revolution: 35 Years of Fracking in the Barnett Shale,” shows that the Barnett Shale, a geographic landform in Texas producing natural gas, has used fracking to produce more than 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas since 2003, which is enough to heat 225 million homes for one year.
Barnett shale, according to the report, which was conducted by pro-natural gas group North Texans for Natural Gas, also showed the formation produced $11.8 billion each year and created more than 107,000 permanent jobs.
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