Concerned citizens protest Lubbock fracking contract

Published: Jul. 20, 2012 at 11:56 PM CDT|Updated: Dec. 15, 2014 at 1:59 AM CST
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Lubbock motorists might have noticed a small protest gathering Friday afternoon in front of Science Spectrum, 2579 South Loop 289. Five people held signs and paced the sidewalk as motorists drove by.

They say the City of Lubbock has put the local environment at risk by agreeing to "fracking" - hydraulic fracturing - on city-owned property.

Fracking is a process of cracking the bedrock underground to increase the production of oil and gas wells. The cracks are made sometimes as much as one mile deep under the ground.

Back in March, the City Council approved an oil & gas lease with a company called Four Sevens Exploration LTD. The company paid $1.4 million up front and the city gets a 25% royalty.

The land in question is both near the airport and in the City of Lubbock's "sewer farm," where wastewater is dumped on the ground.

"Fracturing is detrimental to the air, to the environment, to the water, to the surface land…" Protestor Naida Gonzales said. "As soon as these guys are through with the hydraulic fracturing, they just pack up and move."

The protestors think the city should have invited more public discussion and debate before agreeing to the deal with Four Sevens.

City Councilman Victor Hernandez was the lone 'no' vote back in March. He raised concerns about seismic activity or earthquakes, although such concerns are not widely accepted. There are also allegations that the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing can poison underground water supplies.

At the time, Zack Brady, attorney for the Four Sevens, said with fracking comes, "… allegations, not proof, of environmental damage."

Brady says it wasn't always called fracking but, "That activity has been going on for quite some time."

As part of the deal, the City of Lubbock is selling wastewater to Four Sevens. That also drew dissent from Hernandez back in March. "I'm really hesitant about using water for anything other than to sustain life," he said.

The city does not yet recycle wastewater to put it back in the municipal water supply. However, there are plans to do so in the future.

A documentary, Gasland, made famous by the cable network HBO in 2010, showed that people in one Pennsylvania town could light their drinking water on fire after a nearby fracking operation.

Texas Tech Petroleum Engineering Department Chair Mohamed Solimon addressed concerns about groundwater contamination from fracking back in 2011.

"It's like any other industry," he said. "People can make mistakes, but if you do it right, there should not be an issue or any problem."

The contract between Lubbock and Four Sevens anticipates the risk of environmental issues. It says the company has to reimburse the city for any loss, "arising out of the violation … of any federal, state or local laws, rules or regulations."

The protest group promises that Friday's event on the South Loop is not the end of the discussion and there will be more public information coming soon.

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