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As fracking increases in Texas, city leaders avoid scrutiny for new wells

The neighborhood next to an active natural gas drilling site in Arlington, Texas. New permits for the site were not subject to a public hearing or council vote. [Cristian ArguetaSoto/Fort Worth Report]

By Amal Ahmed for Floodlight and Haley Samsel for Fort Worth Report

When she saw the drilling rig go back up, Kim Feil started closing windows.

She didn’t want a repeat of 2013, when she experienced nosebleeds after natural gas drilling began at the site just a quarter mile from her home in Arlington, Texas, in the Barnett Shale.

For five years after fracking surged in the late 2000s, Feil blogged almost every day and regularly attended council meetings. She warned neighbors of potential health effects, including studies finding higher risk of asthma attacks, from chemicals used during the drilling process. A 2019 study found people living between 500 and 2,000 feet of fracking sites have an elevated risk of nosebleeds, headaches, dizziness or other short-term health effects.

By 2014, as natural gas prices plummeted, fracking activity began to slow down. Recently, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and gas prices skyrocketing, that economic equation changed again. Profits from natural gas drilling surged to new heights. The Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees the oil and gas industry, reported the most active gas well permits in seven years. This past summer, as the price of oil and gas hit historic highs, the city of Arlington quietly approved nearly a dozen permits for new gas wells near the homes of its residents without holding any public hearing, leaving Feil and other members of the community without a chance to comment or protest the activity.

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