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Shame makes an effective motivational tool. When last we met residents of the Chisholm Heights neighborhood west of Fort Worth, they were furious about the steady stream of Encana Oil & Gas drilling trucks lumbering through their subdivision (“Trail Dust,” Nov. 5, 2008).


The trucks were servicing a dozen gas wells on the adjacent 3,070-acre Beggs ranch and were cutting through the neighborhood. State law allows industrial trucks to use county roads, and the ranch owner wouldn’t agree to build a new gate and driveway across his property. He wanted the millions of royalty dollars the drilling at his ranch would bring, but he wanted his neighbors to put up with all the traffic and dust. After calling elected officials and everybody else they could think of, to no avail, the neighbors finally called Fort Worth Weekly, hoping some publicity might embarrass the Beggs family or Encana into doing the right thing.

It worked. Encana trucks are now using a new ranch road, and Chisholm Heights residents are breathing a sigh of relief instead of a lungful of dust and truck fumes.

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“There are mockingbirds out there again, there’s deer, it’s 100 percent different,” Bobby Pickard said. “Your story gave us the push we needed to get this started. It was your article, our blog, and the calls we made to Encana that humiliated them.”

The neighborhood’s blog site – www.barnettshalelife.blogspot.com – is now promoting State Rep. Phil King‘s latest legislative effort, a pair of bills prompted in large part by the Chisholm Heights situation. House Bill 3402 would prohibit gas wells from being drilled within 600 feet of frequently used buildings in unincorporated areas (current state law allows wells within 200 feet), while HB 3403 would prevent large trucks from driving through platted subdivisions in unincorporated areas.

 

Whiskey Needs Water

Few things in life are as yummy as a whiskey and water over ice. The problem is, two of those three ingredients require clean, tasty water (well, all three, really, but Texas whiskey isn’t Static’s preferred brand). Some parts of the state have seen their groundwater sources fouled or exhausted. More than half the water used in Texas each year comes from the ground, and more and more counties across the state are creating groundwater conservation districts to manage, preserve, and conserve the valuable life (and bar) source.

So Static is tentatively ecstatic that our state’s groundwater sources might be receiving additional protection from the Lege. The Texas Senate passed a bill this week to require oil and gas companies seeking wastewater disposal permits to also notify the local groundwater conservation district. The bill now goes to the Texas House and, if passed and signed by the governor, would become law on Sept 1.

“The groundwater conservation districts … should be notified of potential disposal wells that could impact local groundwater quality,” said State Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), who sponsored the bill after hearing complaints that the Texas Railroad Commission issues disposal permits to drillers before groundwater conservation district officials get a chance to review the applications.

“This legislation requires the permit applicant to file a copy with the local groundwater conservation district, and then it requires the Railroad Commission to not issue the permit for 30 days,” said Estes’ spokesman Jody Withers. “During that time you can protest the permit application and have it reviewed and give cause for why it shouldn’t be issued. There have been some issues where wells were not properly drilled, and it did cause problems with local groundwater.”

Since 2005, more than 370 injection wells have been drilled in Texas, and groundwater sources were adversely affected in seven cases, Railroad Commission reports show.

“The percentage is small, but the potential exists,” Withers said. “If the oil and gas company cuts corners by not doing it as they’re supposed to, there is a reason for concern.”

Particularly if you rely on groundwater and you’re thirsting for a whiskey and water on the rocks.

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