Eight new air monitors are planned for one of the nation's largest natural gas fields, where drilling has raised questions about emissions effects, state lawmakers said Monday.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has not determined sites or funding sources for the monitors and does not know when they might be in place, although December is a goal, said agency chairman Bryan W. Shaw.
The new monitors would be like seven others -- including four already running -- in the north Texas area that operate around the clock and provide emissions data the public can access, Shaw said.
The monitors test for 45 compounds including cancer-causing benzene, which has been found in elevated amounts in parts of the Barnett Shale, the gas-rich underground rock formation that stretches beneath Dallas, Fort Worth and about 20 counties.
Some state lawmakers said additional monitoring was too urgent to wait until the legislative session starts in January.
"We have multiple funding sources. We'll find funding," state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said at a Monday news conference at Fort Worth City Hall. "What's important is that we move this project forward."
But state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, said the monitors should not be paid for by the energy companies and that data must be collected and analyzed by an independent third party, such as the state's university system. Davis also said the state should consider raising fines for energy companies that violate the rules.
Davis has been critical of some of the commission's past actions, including a delayed disclosure that elevated levels of a harmful chemical were found in Fort Worth. In January, TCEC officials said air samples showed no signs of benzene in Fort Worth, but agency documents made public in May revealed four of eight samples had elevated levels of benzene.
Earlier this year, the agency released results of testing at 94 sites across the Barnett Shale, revealing two sites with extremely high levels of benzene and 19 more with elevated levels of the chemical. Most of the sites had either no harmful chemicals or very small amounts, and the readings at the two worst sites were caused by mechanical problems that were quickly fixed by the companies, the agency said.