Fracking threatens unique desert oasis in west Texas

Balmorhea Springs State Park, Texas [Source: Balmorhea State Park]

Balmorhea Springs State Park, Texas [Source: Balmorhea State Park]



New analysis: Global tourist destination Balmorhea Springs at risk from Apache oil & gas development

Toyahvale & Dallas, TX — Released Thursday, a new scientific analysis of the system of springs feeding Texas’ Balmorhea State Park in the Chihuahuan Desert indicates that new oil and gas production proposed by Apache Corp. could pollute or otherwise disrupt the springs that make Balmorhea a global tourist destination. The report was authored by hydrologist Tom Myers, Ph.D for the Balmorhea community group Save Our Springs Too and national environmental group Earthworks.

“This report shows that oil and gas production threatens everything that makes our desert oasis special,” said Neta Rhyne owner of Funky Li’l Dive Shop in Toyahvale, home to Balmorhea State Park, adding: “The springs are the heart of our economy and our community. People aren’t going to come from all over the world to swim and scuba dive in water polluted by fracking.”

Myers’ analysis, A Preliminary Analysis of the Risks to the Balmorhea Springs Complex Posed by Unconventional Oil & Gas Development, found the risks include:

  1. The potential for fracking fluid, flowback, or produced water to migrate through pathways between the formations containing oil and gas, and the sources of the springs;
  2. The potential for leaks of fluids, including gas, from the well bores into shallower aquifers more closely connected to the springs;
  3. The potential for spills or leaks from fluid impoundments into shallow aquifers closely connected to spring pathways;
  4. The potential for fracking to affect spring flow rates by affecting flow in the spring sources. Fracking can change pathways which could change the artesian pressure and hence the spring flow rate.
  5. The effect of pumping groundwater for fracking to reduce spring flow.

Although Apache Corp has publicly promised that it will treat the region with extreme care, its CEO and President John Christmann is on record telling investors that Apache intentionally drilled a well to intersect a fault near Balmorhea Lake — one of the primary risks identified in Myers’ analysis.

The gas Apache intends to extract from this area is ultimately intended for export to Mexican consumers via the controversial Trans Pecos Pipeline that would go through the Big Bend region.

“We can believe Apache’s promises, or we can look at the oil and gas industry’s track record” said Earthworks Gulf Regional Organizer Sharon Wilson.

Wilson continued: “They say, ‘We need to drill for energy independence!’ But this gas is destined for Mexico through the Trans Pecos Pipeline. They say, ‘Oil and gas drilling is safe!’ But the Environmental Protection Agency has documented hundreds of spills from fracking-related drilling. They say, ‘We’ll treat Balmorhea with kid gloves!’ But Apache has already intentionally drilled a fault close to Balmorhea Lake. No more drilling permits should be issued until a complete environmental impact analysis can be done. There’s too much at stake.”

A community meeting to discuss oil and gas development in the region, its risks, and what to do about it, will occur Saturday, November 5, 2016, at 3:00 p.m., at the Balmorhea Community Center. Hosted by Save Our Springs Too, it will include a discussion Myers’ analysis and also feature a panel of speakers:

  • Dr Jack Sharp, University of Texas, Austin hydrogeologist
  • Kendall McCook, certified farm consultant
  • Sharon Wilson, certified optical gas imaging thermographer and Earthworks’ Gulf Regional Organizer
  • Priscilla Villa, presentacion en espanol by Earthworks’ South Texas Organizer

For More Information:

A Preliminary Analysis of the Risks to the Balmorhea Springs Complex Posed by Unconventional Oil & Gas Development

Balmorhea State Park website

Transcript of Apache Corp CEO telling investors that they were drilling their Ortler well near Balmorhea Lake

Image sourced from Texas Railroad Commission showing proximity of Ortler well to Balmorhea Lake

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