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Permanent air monitor coming to Karnes County

A permanent air monitor is finally coming to the center of the Eagle Ford shale play.

According to Lisa Song and David Hasemeyer for InsideClimate News, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has caved to the pressure of a recent study on air quality, as well as malcontent from area officials and residents alike.

The new air monitor will be installed in Karnes County, a focal point in the Eagle Ford where over 10,000 wells have been drilled in the past six years. The regulatory move is a step in the right direction for the TCEQ’s tainted reputation.

In a February investigation, InsideClimate News, The Center for Public Integrity and the Weather Channel revealed that the TCEQ knows almost nothing about air quality in the area. The series, “Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil & Bad Air on the Texas Prairie,” found that from September 1, 2009, through August 31, 2013, there was a 100-percent increase statewide in unplanned, toxic air releases associated with oil and gas production and that companies were rarely fined, even when inspections revealed they were operating equipment improperly.

Related: TCEQ plans new air monitoring site in Eagle Ford

Up until now, monitoring by the TCEQ had been limited at best. Only five other air monitors are installed in the region, all of which fall at the edges of one of the nation’s most productive shale plays.

While the air monitor will not have an immediate effect on further regulatory action, such as solving complaints of health problems by residents in the region, it will help bring to light the quality of the air those residents are breathing. Air regulations in Texas have been a cloudy issue for far too long, but Texas Senator Judith Zaffirini, whose district includes Karnes County, hopes that the addition of the monitor in her jurisdiction will keep officials “better informed.”

A spokesman for the TCEQ, Terry Clawson, verified to Song and Hasemeyer that the monitor will require approximately $12,000 to install, and $135,000 will be needed annually to operate it.

For all the details regarding air regulations in the Eagle Ford and the new air monitor, see Song’s and Hasemeyer’s full article by clicking here.

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