EPA HEARING DALLAS SEPT. 29_ 2011

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					EPA HEARING: DALLAS, TEXAS, SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
Sr. Elizabeth Riebschlaeger, ccvi
Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
San Antonio, Texas
elizabeth.riebchlaeger@amormeus.org
361-676-2921 (cell)


My name is Sister Elizabeth Riebschlaeger. I am a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word from
San Antonio, Texas.     The statement that I am making here today represents the commitment of
our congregation of religious women. As co-signers with millions around the world of the Earth
Charter, we have committed ourselves to work for a more life-sustaining environment for all the
human family.         This commitment relates to the geophysical environment, the social
environment, the civic environment as well as the spiritual environment.              Out of that
commitment, and in the face of the frantic pace of new gas and oil fracking activities in Texas
today, we join our voices with those here today, who come to ask the Environmental Protection
Agency for immediate action toward regulating these activities.


Before I begin that part of our statement, we want to thank you for holding this public hearing
here in Arlington, Texas, today, making it possible for Texans to participate in the most
important work of stewardship of clean air, water and soil in the present, for generations to
come. Public hearings are our democracy at its best because they give citizens the opportunity to
speak directly to government officials charged with the responsibility for the Common Good,
without the intervention of lobbyists, public relations hirees, media interpretation or professional
politicians.


I was born and raised, and now minister in Cuero, Texas, Dewitt County—deep in the heart of
the Eagle Ford shale, where oil and gas activities can only be described as frantic and furious.
Our once quiet streets and county roads are now overrun by diesel trucks hauling hazardous
materials; our beautiful fields of wildflowers, struck barren by this historic drought are
overwhelmed with drilling rigs, fracking units, batteries of storage tanks, flares and pipeline
facilities. An average of 1.7 million gallons of water per fracking job is being taken from our
aquifer and destroyed, never to be returned to Nature’s replenishing cycle for the Earth—and
EPA HEARING: DALLAS, TEXAS, SEPTEMBER 29, 2011                                            p. 2
Sr. Elizabeth Riebschlaeger, ccvi
Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
San Antonio, Texas
elizabeth.riebchlaeger@amormeus.org
361-676-2921 (cell)

Drilling is projected by just one company in Dewitt County to continue for 20 years. Even as I
speak, a 24” pipeline is being laid under the historic Guadalupe River, so vital to farming and
ranching interests. There is no doubt that toxic vapors, including sulfur dioxide and methane
gases are pouring out of these motors and rigs. Large gathering facilities and storage sites are
being constructed on once fertile farm and ranchlands, near once quiet rural family homes.


In another county in the Eagle Ford Shale region, a family’s rural home was overwhelmed by the
toxic smell from a compressor station across the county road. One member was hospitalized
intermittently over a year with symptoms similar to pneumonia and arsenic was found in their
blood. Doctors warned that if this family did not move out of their home, that member would be
dead in a year. Four of their closest friends chose to sell their property and move far away from
the compressors— some to other parts of the state, hopefully to one where the air is still safe to
breathe, if they can find one.


The name and place where this occurred cannot be divulged here, because a lawsuit was filed
and settled out of court. As is usually the case, the company’s agreement insisted on a “non-
disclosure” clause, which prevents this family from letting anyone know of the illness brought
about by the compressor station—not even their neighbors who were also complaining of odors.
And so, you might ask, how do I know of this event?


Policies can be made and documents signed after the settlement is reached. But in the meantime,
in these small rural communities, neighbors grow up looking out for one another and that
becomes a life commitment. They know. Extended family members care about loved ones, and
they know. As Shakespeare said, “The truth will out.” And it lies in the lives and experiences of
the grass roots people like those whose stories you are hearing here today and of thousands like
them. Please listen to their truth.
EPA HEARING: DALLAS, TEXAS, SEPTEMBER 29, 2011                                              p. 3
Sr. Elizabeth Riebschlaeger, ccvi
Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
San Antonio, Texas
elizabeth.riebchlaeger@amormeus.org
361-676-2921 (cell)

But ordinary people usually have no resources to help them understand what is happening to
them, nor the power to stand up for their rights to powerful corporations (often owned and
operated by their more powerful fellow Americans, I might add).


Therefore, our first strong request is that consideration be given to formulating a legal way
for the practice of “non-disclosure” requirements to be ended. Non-disclosure keeps from
the public important public health information that should be made known to all, to prevent
others from suffering the same consequences of an oil or gas company’s safety failures or even
flagrant disregard of EPA rules and regulations or the public health. Withholding important
public health information also becomes an obstacle to corrective action that could prevent further
damage to the public and the environment.


This dangerously frantic development by oil and gas companies as they try to “beat the clock” on
the new regulations continues throughout shale regions. Daily, more and more toxic emissions
pour at an alarming rate into the air we and our children breathe as new wells are drilled, flares
ignited, storage facilities constructed, pipelines laid. At least one drilling operation was seen
located just across a small state highway from a high school in session, only a few hundred feet
from the front door, exposing students, teachers and staff to toxic emissions and the possibility of
an explosion and fire with the toxic spills involved.


This “rush for the money” is a dangerous policy that risks irreversible damages to the
environment and millions of dollars in public health costs in the near and distant future. The
time to act is now, not later, so toxic emissions can be contained and stopped. Specifically, our
second strong request is that all these sources of toxic emissions related to current gas and
oil activity called “directional drilling and fracking” in all shale regions should be covered
under the new rules.
EPA HEARING: DALLAS, TEXAS, SEPTEMBER 29, 2011                                               p. 4
Sr. Elizabeth Riebschlaeger, ccvi
Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
San Antonio, Texas
elizabeth.riebchlaeger@amormeus.org
361-676-2921 (cell)

As the late Pope John Paul II said: “To care for creation is a moral duty for all human beings.
We are called to govern nature as a responsible administrator and not as a merciless
exploiter”. We call upon the EPA to act as that responsible administrator. And as our US
Catholic Bishops have said, a moral imperative leads us all to act to protect the people of the
planet. This decision has moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.


Our environmental house is on fire, and the US cannot sit around discussing which door to
use for escape. The time to act is now, not later, so toxic emissions can be contained and
stopped. Specifically, all of these sources of emissions should be covered under the new
rules.


This is what we are asking of the EPA today—to fulfill your mission assigned to you by the
American people: to protect the Common Good from those who would only exploit the energy
resources that Creation provides for us without regard to the cost involved to existing businesses
like ranching and farming, to our air and soil, to both the quality and quantity of all our water
resources and to human health.


Thank you for this opportunity to testify.
PRESS CONFERENCE STATEMENT
EPA HEARING, DALLAS, TEXAS
SEPTEMBER 29, 2011

My name is Sister Elizabeth Riebschlaeger. I am a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word from
San Antonio, Texas. I was born and raised, and now minister in Cuero, Texas, Dewitt County—
deep in the heart of the Eagle Ford shale, where oil and gas activities can only be described as
frantic and furious.    The statement that I am making here today represents the commitment of
our congregation of religious women. As signers of the Earth Charter, we have committed
ourselves to work for a more life-sustaining environment for all the human family.


This commitment relates to the geophysical environment, the social environment, the civic
environment as well as the spiritual environment. Out of that commitment, and in the face of the
frantic pace of new gas and oil fracking activities in Texas today, we join our voices with those
here today, who come to ask the Environmental Protection Agency for immediate action toward
regulating these activities.


Daily many more wells are drilled, more flares ignited, more emissions from new oil and gas
storage sites are released into the air we breathe. Irreversible damages are occurring, so these
regulations should not be delayed. Reckless actions occur, such as placing a rig immediately
opposite a high school, exposing students, faculty and staff to toxic emissions during drilling and
fracking, the results of a blowout, explosion or chemical fire.    Our environmental house is on
fire, and the USA cannot sit around discussing which door to use for escape.


As the late Pope John Paul II said: “To care for creation is a moral duty for all human beings.
We are called to govern nature as a responsible administrator and not as a merciless exploiter”.
We call upon the EPA to act as that responsible administrator. And as our US Catholic Bishops
have said, a moral imperative leads us all to act to protect the people of the planet. This decision
has moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored. The time to act is now, not later, so
toxic emissions can be contained and stopped. Specifically, all these new sources of emissions
should be covered under the new rules.

				
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