A handful of Lubbock activists cited health and environmental safety concerns as they pressured Lubbock’s Board of Health on Monday to take a stand against a City Council-approved lease allowing an oil exploration company to use a controversial hydraulic fracturing method in the city.
But for the second time in about a month, the board told anti-fracturing activists that board members need more time and research if the board will consider making a request of the City Council to review the city’s policy on the oil and gas drilling process.
“We know the jobs fracking will create will never balance the destruction to our earth fracking is inevitably capable of,” LeAnn Lamb-Vines told the board during a public comment session.
She and several activists cited an assortment of articles suggesting hydraulic fracturing can contaminate above and below ground water sources.
“Fresh water supplies in our state are already stressed, and we don’t need to stress them further,” Karen Porter told the board.
Hydraulic fracturing is the process of using water to create and expand fractures in a rock layer thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface to extract natural gas, oil and other substances.
Board member Dr. Ted Reid shared the activists’ concerns, citing a 2011 National Academy of Sciences study of water sources near northeastern Pennsylvania hydraulic fracturing wells.
The study shows increased methane levels were detected in underground water sources closer to the fracturing locations and contamination from fracturing wells into nearby water sources.
“This dispels the idea you don’t have contamination from the wells to the water sources,” he said.
Board member Dr. Donald May questioned the integrity of any research regarding hydraulic fracturing, saying it can be skewed for political purposes.
Both Reid and board member Dr. Brian Carr said they wanted to see more research on the issue, but suggested the board eventually could consider recommending the City Council pursue requirements for hydraulic fracturing outfits to regularly test water for contamination and provide those results to the city.
Carr said the board likely will consider wording for a recommendation to the City Council when the board meets again Oct. 19.
Armando Gonzales, who brought the issue up to the City Council during the Aug. 10 meeting, asked for involvement from the Health Board in both the Aug. 17 and Monday meetings and expressed his concerns about negative health effects caused by hydraulic fracturing.
Gonzales said Lubbock’s $2.19 million-plus deal with Four Sevens Exploration Co. could expose residents to potential water and air contamination and to the noise of fracturing site operations in such places as land near Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport and city-owned farmland in East Lubbock.
As part of the contract, Four Sevens leased the mineral rights from the city for 6,261.94 acres, giving the city’s wastewater department $1.03 million, solid waste $433,139 and the airport $729,915.
Additionally, the city is entitled to 25 percent of all royalties.
Fracturing operations have not begun at the locations
Spokespersons for Four Sevens have not returned Avalanche-Journal phone calls requesting comment since August, including a message left Monday afternoon.