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Energizing Fort Worth charities

Lighting a gas stove

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: While many industries are feeling the pinch of the economic slowdown, the energy sector isn't one of them. Consider Fort Worth-based XTO Energy. The oil and natural gas company is expected to post profits of more than a dollar a share today.

It's salad days for other Forth Worth energy companies too -- so much so that nonprofits in the area aren't having the same problems raising money as charities elsewhere. Kate Archer Kent has more.


Kate Archer Kent: In the heart of Fort Worth, energy company money is funding the construction of an enormous steel skeleton. This isn't another headquarters for big oil. It's the Fort Worth museum of Science and History, getting a $75 million makeover.

The construction activity above ground mirrors what's going on a mile-and-a-half below. The same firms that are helping refurbish the museum are drilling into the Barnett Shale, one of the nation's largest natural gas fields.

Carl Hamm: I think there's a sense of optimism.

Carl Hamm's the museum's chief fundraiser:

Hamm: When they feel more secure, they might be more willing to support things that they might not otherwise.

Energy companies are pumping billions of dollars into Fort Worth's economy every year. Hamm's museum is just one of dozens of foundations and cultural organizations that have benefited., such as Bass Performance Hall. It marked its tenth anniversary with a free concert.

Paul Beard is the Hall's managing director. He says he'd never be able to put on a free concert. But Chesapeake energy paid for the whole thing.

Paul Beard: Chesapeake was very happy with this partnership because it obviously was good for their visibility and for their image.

Thanks to the Barnett Shale, drillers and nonprofits in the Fort Worth area are in great shape financially. But geologists say gas deposits will stop yielding in 20 to 50 years.

Ron Wright is acting mayor of Arlington, a neighboring city. He says he's planning accordingly.

Ron Wright: Let's do what smart people do when they get a windfall, and that is you spend some of it and then invest the rest.

Arlington's endowment fund will grow to $50 million in several years. Wright says it'll keep pumping out a nice return long after the natural gas is gone.

I'm Kate Archer Kent for Marketplace.

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I truly wish that before any journalist writes one more word about gas drilling that he or
she would stop and read the 2007 NRDC report “Drilling Down”. I think you will come
away with the same conclusion that I have – at this point in time, there is NO WAY to do drilling “right” in an ubran setting such as Fort Worth. Below is just a sampling of the information from that report. The number of wells in place ( and requested ), and our (Fort Worth’s) proximity to them eliminates any possibility that any resident will have
the ability to completely avoid the health effects of the drilling process. In fact, due to the number of gas wells already here, there is a good possibility that we have already put our entire city in harm’s way.

( From the 2007 NRDC report – Drilling Down )
People Who Live Near Oil and Gas Operations Report Serious Health Problems
Many people who live near oil and gas operations experience symptoms resembling those that may be caused by the toxic substances found in oil and gas or the chemical additives used to produce them. The negative health effects associated with these substances range from eye and skin irritation to respiratory illness such as emphysema, thyroid disorders, tumors, and birth defects. A recent study reported a higher prevalence of rheumatic diseases, lupus, neurological symptoms, respiratory symptoms and cardiovascular problems in a New Mexico community built on top of a former oilfield with some nearby active wells when compared to a community with no known similar exposures. Other studies have found increased cancer risks associated with living near oil or gas fields.

Decades of dealmaking by the industry, Congress, and regulatory offices have resulted in exemptions for the oil and gas industry from protections in the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as the Superfund law), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. In addition, the oil and gas industry is not covered by public right-to-know provisions under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, meaning that companies can withhold information needed to make informed decisions about protecting the environment and human health.
…what do you think the chances are that the gas industry would agree to give up those exemptions for Fort Worth?

I have invited NPR to take a walk with me through Wise County drilling sites. The Barnett Shale was born in Wise County. However, the reporter only had time to cover Fort Worth and urban drilling. Rarely does any media make time to address the environmental injustice inflicted on poor, rural people. Please remember where your food comes from. Come see the Domestic Drilling Armageddon in rural Texas.
http://txsharon.blogspot.com/2008/07/more-barnett-shale-sludge-pond.html

I speak as someone who grew up in Arlington and benefitted greatly from the vibrant theatre, arts, and music non-profits in our area. As a child I was exposed to wonderful and affordable programs at the museums in Dallas and Fort Worth, took theatre classes at CATS, attended many many affordably priced plays over the years all over the Metroplex and later in college I was awarded a paid internship (almost unheard of) with the Texas Non-Profit Theatre Association, which is generously supported by individual, business, and sales taxes as well as private donors.

I have since moved to Portland, Oregon which, while having a large number of non-profit arts organizations, does not enjoy nearly the degree of patronage as the theatres, museums, and concert halls back in Texas. The Pacific Northwest and the greater Portland area have a booming industry which bolsters and supports the local economy in the form of major tech companies (to name just one sector of our economy) like Nike, Intel and Apple much as DFW has oil/natural gas companies such as XTO, ExxonMobile and Shell, so it's not a matter of our economies being vastly different in terms of profit or growth.

I am shocked and saddened to see that the residents of my area do not support the arts in the great numbers and dollars with which Texans, whom I took for granted while living there, reach out to the arts.

I currently make my living full time as theatre professional and recently the theatre I work at had to cut my position as people everywhere are suffering from a major economic downturn. Unfortunately for both the people who work in and benefit from the exposure, the arts are seen as a luxury and are one of the first things people and governments cut out of their budgets.

There are many issues with natural gas, oil, and specifically the Barnett Shale operations and how it impacts the community and DFW area in a multitude of ways. It is nice to see though that given a situation where, much like anything in life, there are cons as well as pros that the people and companies of DFW are using some of the money and profits to support and help a vibrant part of local culture that often is one of the first 'luxuries' people forgo in hard times. I think it's incredibly generous of them and as a theatrical artist I am personally extremely grateful for their past, present, and future patronage and support.

Thank you, Texas.

I was alarmed to hear this program this morning. I don't think you have an inkling of an idea of what is going on in the Barnett Shale area. They are promoting urban drilling and from personal experience, my neighborhood has been fighting a drill on a church parking lot - less than 600 feet from my house. I am alarmed at this report, because never once was the air pollution, noise pollution or the environmental impact of these wells mentioned. I understand non-profits are getting money, but the overall impact on the Barnett Shale, and the people who live in it and with it, needs to be considered too.
Sincerely,
Lura Daussat

Wow, this is some hard-hitting news right here. Why don't you dig a little deeper and understand a bit more about the Barnett Shale, instead of skimming the surface to find what crap floats.

Nice try at "news," but this has been the situation in Fort Worth since the 1930s and before. The bulwark arts infrastructure in this town predates the Barnett Shale, which is obvious to anyone who spends more than a few hours in wealthy and wonderful Fort Worth.

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