A comprehensive, new review of the impacts of shale oil and gas development in Texas by a cross-disciplinary task force—organized by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST)—finds a wide range of both benefits and consequences for the state’s infrastructure, environment and communities. These impacts are detailed in the new report by the TAMEST Shale Task Force, Environmental and Community Impacts of Shale Development in Texas.
The TAMEST report draws extensively from two studies conducted by TTI’s Transportation Policy Research Center (PRC) in 2015: Oil and Gas Energy Developments and Changes in Pavement Conditions in Texas, and Oil and Gas Energy Developments and Changes in Crash Trends in Texas. Both studies contributed to the Task Force’s findings, which include:
- “Most existing road and bridge infrastructure in Texas was not designed to carry and accommodate the current high numbers and weights of truckloads” associated with drilling activity, and,
- “Traffic increases—especially truck traffic—associated with the development and production of oil and gas from shale formations in Texas have resulted in increases in the frequency and severity of traffic crash incidents.”
“The task force met several times over the past year,” said TTI Senior Research Engineer Cesar Quiroga. “My task was to summarize the lessons learned from all the reports that we had already written and reference that material in Chapter 7, Transportation, of the report. The experience and support we’ve had from other agencies such as the Texas Department of Transportation, the state legislature, the Railroad Commission and counties since the beginning of the energy boom were fundamental in helping us develop this content for the TAMEST report.”
In addition to transportation impacts, the TAMEST report also focused on seismicity as well as land, air, water, and economic and social impacts of expanded energy development in Texas.
“Transportation needs for both travelers and business activity continue to grow, and those needs create challenges for our state’s policy makers,” says Ginger Goodin, director of the PRC. “Our work seeks to inform their discussions as much as possible.”
Other task force members who contributed to the TAMEST report and are affiliated with The Texas A&M University System included John Barton, executive director of the RELLIS Campus, and Urs Kreuter, professor in the Texas A&M Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.
The report identifies what still needs to be learned and the steps to take to fill in those gaps in knowledge. It proposes consideration of policies to help address impacts, offers recommendations for future research, and identifies opportunities for greater collaboration among public-sector and private-sector stakeholders.
“The TAMEST task force did an excellent job of providing the framework for the development and release of the report,” said Quiroga. “I hope this report will help to bring attention and focus to the need for strategies and solutions that look at shale energy developments and how these developments interact with infrastructure systems, communities and the environment in the state in a holistic manner.”