Cut in Funding Followed Early Release of Air Quality Study

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Just in case you had any doubts on the matter, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is really not into sharing information with the public before it has been vetted by the folks over at the TCEQ. Shocking, we know.

The Alamo Area Council of Governments -- a state council that oversees 13 counties in the San Antonio area -- learned this the hard way when the agency, which had been contracted by the TCEQ to conduct a study on the impact drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale has had on air quality, released the information to the San Antonio-Express News before the report was given to TCEQ.

The report found that the Eagle Ford Shale, a shale play rich in oil and natural gas that has been booming in recent years due to hydraulic fracturing and slant drilling, was indeed causing a decrease in air quality. The AACOG folks tell the San Antonio Express-News that the release of the information was an honest mistake, but that explanation wasn't enough for the TCEQ. The state agency gave similar organizations a 35 percent increase in funding this year, but denied the AACOG a 35 percent increase.

A coincidence? Think again. The TCEQ straight-up acknowledges that this was done because the ACCOG released part one of a TCEQ-funded air quality study before it was reviewed by TCEQ. While some would assume that a public report would be open to the public, the contract between the TCEQ and AACOG required that the report be reviewed by the TCEQ before the information was publicly released. To the public. You know, the people who pay for it. Since the AACOG folks didn't do that, they didn't get the extra funding that the other agencies got. Simple as that.

Of course it isn't actually that simple. The information released probably wouldn't have been such a big deal if it hadn't revealed less than positive results about the Eagle Ford Shale oil play. Like the Barnett Shale before it in North Texas, the Eagle Ford has been a subject of contention between the oil and state types who are all pretty well in favor of all things oil and the environmentalists who are decidedly not.

The report found that ozone pollution in the San Antonio area will probably get worse in the next few years as the Eagle Ford Shale boom continues. Last week Bryan Shaw, head of TCEQ, said that the pollution isn't expected to have a significant impact on the area, according to the San Antonio Express News. However, InsideClimate News notes that San Antonio's air quality has been declining since drilling in the Eagle Ford started in 2008, and that projections show it will only get worse in the years to come.

One has to wonder if this would have been such a big deal if the report had said something more shiny and happy about the Eagle Ford and the future of air quality (Texas in general is in a bad mood about all things air pollution since the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday morning that the state will have to abide by the Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.) When it comes to the environment Texas doesn't much want to talk about it. When it comes to oil, Texas doesn't much like anything negative or anything that is released directly to the public, as the folks at AACOG have learned.

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