Back at the Mayborn School of Journalism, Dick Wells, a former Star-Telegram editor and public relations man for the U.S. Navy and its recruiters, coached how to keep from having holes in our stories.
One big question to get answered was “what’s the history?”
Apparently, someone forgot to check the history of Al Armendariz’s trip to Dish and whether anyone had reported that night.
Last night, I spent some time on Twitter with Forrest Wilder, environmental reporter of the Texas Observer, and a political ally of Gov. Perry. Forrest tweeted an exchange we had about re-writing history.
Unlike many other situations where I have heard gasps or watched eyeballs roll, or had someone come up after a public meeting to talk to me, no offense was taken that night. People of Dish were pretty beaten down. Armendariz was responding to them on a personal level.
I’ll be the first to admit that journalism is wickedly difficult. You get tips from people with questionable intentions. You have to work hard to get at the story. It’s easy to step in stuff on the way. But I respect our readers way too much to allow journalists who’ve never been here to re-write our history.
Claim it, people of Dish and Denton County. This is your story.
Denton Record-Chronicle (TX)
Federal oversight promised for shale EPA’s regional head visits Dish council meeting
Date: Tuesday, May 11, 2010
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe Staff Writer PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
DISH – With oil and gas extraction now a national enforcement priority, some energy companies in the Barnett Shale could soon face stiff penalties for operating outside federal rules, said Dr. Al Armendariz, Region 6 director of the Environmental Protec tion Agency.Armendariz visited with Denton, Wise and Tarrant County residents at the beginning of the Dish Town Council’s regular meeting Monday night. He and other federal environmental officials are on a two-day tour of the area – planned before the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster – to look at trouble spots in the Barnett Shale.
It was his second time to be at a public meeting in Dish, although the first time, last summer, Armendariz was still a professor at Southern Methodist University, sitting in the back of the council chambers as Dish residents put state environmental officials on the spot.
Armendariz shared details about changes at the EPA that residents could expect in the months ahead, but residents continued to bring a local perspective to the problem.
Resident Jim Caplinger said he was concerned that federal officials would be hamstrung by the same political forces that have made it difficult for state officials to enforce environmental rules.
Armendariz told him that, as far as he could see, no such pressure exists at the agency now.
“Our enforcement initiative doesn’t depend on any state,” Armendariz said. “We have the clearance to do what our mission is. We don’t expect any political interference on me or any others.”
Council member William Sciscoe asked what it would take for the agency to shut down industry operations.
“We need some real responsibility, but we’re not getting it,” Sciscoe said. “We’re powerless to protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens. These people are un touchable.”
Armendariz told him that it was difficult to do something immediate with toxins in the air, “unless people are going to the emergency room by the dozens,” he said, adding that was the way that Congress had limited the agency’s powers.
“However, people should be drinking clean water, and that’s something that we can take immediate action [on], and we can address really quickly,” Armendarizsaid.
Resident Amber Smith agreed to let Armendariz take a water sample she collected that residents had been passing around the room.
The family’s water well, which had been reliable for seven years, went bad in the past two weeks, she said.
Resident John Harris stood up to say that he’d never been at a meeting before, but he came to speak to Armendariz about his son.
His 11-year-old recently had to have a baby tooth removed, and there was no adult tooth behind it.
“Our dentist said that a group of dentists are seeing this too much in our community – and it’s way out of whack compared to the national average,” Harris said.
Armendariz encouraged Harris to e-mail him with details, pledging to have the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry look into the local rate of the developmental abnormality.
Armendariz told the crowd that he didn’t have a “way of life act” that he could use for en forcement, even though in his travels, he could see radical changes in the community. But the agency was revisiting hy draulic fracturing, and new rules for both that process and for air toxins would be coming in a year or two.
Cherelle Blazer, of the En vironmental Defense Fund, re commended that the EPA look into exceptions to the industry’s exemption to the Clean Air Act.
The industry’s claim that it cannot quantify emissions is now obsolete, Blazer said, making the exemption immaterial in urban, nonattainment areas where it contributes to health risks.
“Maybe closing that loophole can be a stop-gap measure, until the new rules are in place,” Blazer said.
Armendariz told the crowd that he met recently with representatives from oil and gas producers and told them the agency expected them to deliver a plan within the next 30 days on how they would report all their emissions.
In an interview after the meeting, he said federal officials considered the Western Regional Air Partnership’s study of oil and gas emissions in the 14 westernmost states to be a model.
“Producers in Texas, Okla homa, Arkansas and Louisiana need to take a similar regional look,” Armendariz said.