Impact of oil and gas industry on Texas communities

The Texas economy is reaping benefits from local fossil fuel industries. With production numbers for oil and natural gas companies in the state estimated to rise over the next few years, Texans may continue to see financial benefits connected to increased job availability and taxes paid by the companies to the state.

Although continued extraction of natural resources makes economic sense, some question the environmental impact of practices used to extract these resources from the ground.

Federal government's stance on use of natural resources for energy

Even with the potentially negative side-effects tied to natural resource extraction, one thing appears clear: a successful energy strategy for the United States requires an "all-of-the-above" approach. This approach is endorsed by the current administration, according to Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. As a result, in addition to expanding the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind, an integral part of this energy strategy is the continued use of the oil and gas industry.

There are various methods used to remove natural resources from the ground. One way involves the use of a technique called hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Fracking allows the capture of natural gas that may otherwise be unreachable. The process injects millions of gallons of highly pressurized water into the area the resource is stored. The resource, natural gas, is then pushed to the surface where it is harvested.

Some studies point to a connection between these practices and an increased instance of earthquakes in the surrounding communities.

Impact of gas and oil industry on Texans

Geological experts remain skeptical about the potential connection between increased seismic activity and the use of water injections. Professionals with the Oklahoma Geological Survey state that these earthquakes "could be naturally occurring." The National Academies also issued a report, concluding that this process does not "pose a high risk for inducing felt seismic events."

A recent New York Times investigation may add support to these findings, reporting that although tens of thousands of wells across the country are using injection practices, only eight locations report injection-induced earthquakes. While the connection between oil and natural gas removal practices and a negative environmental impact may continue to be questioned, the actual benefits from these businesses to surrounding communities are clear.

The Texas Workforce Commission estimates over 270,000 Texans are employed within these industries, providing much needed income to numerous families across the state, and employment opportunities are only one positive impact. These companies also paid the state approximately $12 billion in taxes during 2012. These taxes were used to help state and local economies in many ways. One example is the Rainy Day Fund, used for infrastructure projects throughout the state.

Regardless of the benefits, the question of whether environmental issues are connected to oil and gas businesses remains. Some environmental groups are taking the next step, filing lawsuits in an attempt to stop these practices. As a result, oil and gas businesses who may find themselves in a legal dispute should contact an experienced Texas energy law attorney to discuss their situation and better ensure their legal rights are protected.