Texas property owners can post their land against trespassers. But what do you do when the interloper is toxic liquid spreading far beneath the surface of your land from someone else’s well and possibly poisoning your water supplies?
The Texas Supreme Court was to hear arguments on that question this week, in a case that industry groups say could significantly threaten oil and gas drilling in Texas by limiting the use of injection wells to dispose of millions of gallons of waste products. Critics say it’s about time for Texas courts to set better limits on drillers’ ability to affect others’ property rights and values and to threaten the state’s underground water supplies.
The party asking for relief in this case is a rice farming operation in southeast Texas. According to filings by FPL Farming Ltd, liquids from an injection well on nearby property have contaminated a saltwater aquifer under the farm — an aquifer that isn’t being used for drinking water but conceivably could be, with desalinization. The well in question doesn’t handle toxic drilling wastes — but a ruling could apply to those kinds of wells. And it could pit drillers against ranchers, farmers, and other big landholders in shale drilling regions around the state.