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Liveable Arlington, a new Texas grassroots environmental group, joins the growing number of anti-fracking groups forming around the world. The group was established at the end of January, as the battle to impose stricter ozone standards intensifies and the call for fracking bans and tighter ordinances on industry increase nationwide.

Arlington, Texas, a Dallas suburb, sits atop the natural gas rich Barnett Shale. ”Once Arlington was known as a bedroom community. Now we are in the forefront of a potentially dangerous industrial experiment,” Ranjana Bhandari, one of the co-founders of Liveable Arlington, told DeSmogBlog. “We have lived with fracking all around us for many years now and have experienced its negative effects on air quality, public health, and now the earthquakes,” she says.

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Ranjana Bhandari, co-founder of Livable Arlington, in her backyard. ©2013 Julie Dermansky

Bhandari and her family are among the few residents who turned down Chesapeake Energy when the company’s signing agents came seeking their mineral rights. The company offered her an $18,000 per acre bonus that she declined, only to find that the Texas Railroad Commission could strip those rights from her, which they did.

Bhandari and her husband challenged the Commission and lost, but that hasn’t stopped her from fighting for tighter regulations against the fracking industry as it expanded in Arlington.

“There needs to be better monitoring by the State. Allowing self monitoring by the fracking industry does not protect our communities.” Bhandari points out. It is bad enough fracking is exempt from our most important federal environmental laws under the Halliburton Loophole,” she says.

“It is unfortunate that we were the guinea pigs in the experiment,” Bhandari says. “The scientific data and peer reviewed studies are only now becoming available, based on the experiences of communities like ours.”

And the New York State health commissioner’s report on the potential health risks caused by the fracking industry that informed New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking confirmed her fear the industry’s claim fracking is safe is not true.

Bhandari hopes Liveable Arlington’s voices will be heard by local politicians whom they believe have been dismissive of their concerns for years. The group’s members know each other from city council meetings, educational forums held on fracking, and social media. Though their opinions differ on many things, they all agree something must be done to protect their community.

On January 9, many of the Liveable Arlington members attended a public hearing held by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the agency’s proposed stricter standards on ozone which will “better protect Americans’ health and the environment, ” according to the EPA’s website.

Hearings were held in Arlington, Sacramento, CA and Washington DC, giving citizens and industry a chance to weigh in on the EPA’s proposed new rule, which calls for the strengthening of current standards.

Currently the EPA allows the threshold for ozone at 75 parts per billion in an 8-hour span and plans to decrease levels to within a range between 70 to 65 parts per billion. The EPA is also considering setting the rate as low as 60 parts per billion.

A coalition of doctors including Dr. Robert Haley, a Dallas internist and epidemiologist, attended the Arlington hearing. Speaking for the Dallas County Medical Society and the Texas Medical Association, Haley said both groups “strongly endorse” tightening the federal ozone standards. According to the doctors, the fracking industry compounds the area’s ozone problem, reports the Dallas Morning news.

“The doctors made clear we are the childhood asthma capital of the nation here in Dallas / Ft. Worth,” Bhandari says. When it was Bhandari’s turn to speak, she pointed out that industry has technologies that can prevent some of this pollution and called on the EPA to make sure industry is made to use them.

Steve Everley voiced industry’s objections, testifying on behalf of Energy in Depth, the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s (IPAA) education and outreach campaign. Energy in Depth released a report that finds fault with the EPA’s regulatory impact analysis assessment that the agency used as a basis to come up with the new proposed rule. [Read DeSmog’s investigation into the roots of Energy In Depth: ‘Energy In Depth’ Was Created By Major Oil and Gas Companies According to Industry Memo]

The IPAA claims the EPA is ignoring the agency’s own 2011 Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) which the IPAA says “contradicts the cost analysis saving of the new proposed rules,” in their press release.

Artisan, activist and Arlington homeowner, Tammie Carson, a Liveable Arlington member, believes the fracking industry has put her family’s health at risk. She spoke in favor of tighter rules, but isn’t sure the hearing will do any good. However, Carson noted those speaking in favor of tighter standards greatly out-numbered those who spoke against them.

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Tammie Carson, in front of a Vantage Forth Worth Energy site in Arlington, Texas ©2015 Julie Dermansky

In Arlington, despite the threat of tighter regulation and cheaper gas prices, the fracking industry activity has shown no signs of subsiding.

Shahzad Nazir, a professor at Tarrant County College, lives across the street from an Arlington fracking site. It is operated by Vantage Fort Worth Energy and has been active for years.

Despite being told by the company in June last year there wouldn’t be any new activity in 2104, ten new wells were drilled between September and December of last year prompting him to sell his home, he told DeSmogBlog. Activity at the site caused his windows to vibrate, and the noise was so bad he had to change where he slept in his house.

He won’t miss the noise or the smell when he moves out shortly. “It smells like diesel all the time,” Nazir says. Trucks line the street, idling for hours most days.

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Vantage Fort Worth Energy site in Arlington near Sharzad Nazir’s home. ©2015 Julie Dermansky

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Vantage Fort Worth Energy site in Arlington near Sharzad Nazir’s home. ©2015 Julie Dermansky

Nazir plans to be active in Liveable Arlington. “People have to be inspired to want to change,” he says, “I think it is about educating the public.” Which Livable Arlington plans to do.

The EPA will accept public comments until March 17, and the new rules will be finalized by October 2015.