Energy & Environment

2014 Saw Oil Up, Down And A Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On

The nearly 50 percent drop in the price of oil was one of the biggest energy stories of 2014. Here’s some other highlights as the year comes to a close.

flare-from-drilling-site-near-a-playground-from-City-of-Denton
A citizen’s group presentation before Denton City Council on July 15, 2014. The image shows a flare from drilling site near a playground. Image Credit: City of Denton website

 

Texas was producing so much oil and natural gas in 2014 that economist Thomas Tunstall at the University of Texas San Antonio had a hard time believing his own calculations when in September he added up the economic impact it was having in South Texas.

“Yeah, we were surprised,” said Tunstall as he released his findings.

Drilling, pipeline construction, chemical manufacturing — all had grown so fast, it was already at levels Tunstall had previously predicted would take another decade to reach.

But while many communities welcomed all the new jobs, one city in North Texas said, hold on.

“OK, this is a blowout that occurred in Denton that shut the airport down and evacuated homes,” said Cathy McMullen as she spoke at a Denton City Council meeting in July, showing photos of flaming well sites. Last month, Denton residents passed a ban on fracking, saying that the drilling technique was taking place too close to homes and schools with noise, fumes, and flames too close for comfort. 

Still other communities in North and East Texas became concerned over another problem from oil & gas production: earthquakes.

“Feels like a semi-truck hitting your house with a bomb going off,” said Greg Morrison at a public hearing in North Texas.

The tremors residents described were linked to massive amounts of wastewater from drill sites that were being injected underground in disposal wells. In October, state regulators passed new restrictions on how those wells are used.

Overall, 2014 was a banner year for Texas oil production but one that saw some Texans question if regulations were keeping up with an industry growing faster than anyone had predicted.

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Dave Fehling

Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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