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Not in my back yard!
Wilson County NewsMay 2, 2012 | 2,644 views | 2 comments
LA VERNIA -- “I feel a bit more informed.”
“It’s kinda scary!”
“It shouldn’t be allowed
.”These comments were voiced by a number of La Vernia-area residents following an April 25 meeting hosted by the Wilson County Community Values Association in the La Vernia Chamber of Commerce Hall here.
Wilson County Community Values Association founders Gary Jackson and Dennis Olsen, landowners on F.M. 539 near La Vernia, oppose a proposed saltwater disposal well operated by Geomeg Energy Holdings LLC, based in Dripping Springs. Geomeg’s Patrick Marable is the owner of the well site approximately 6 miles southeast of La Vernia. The company has applied for the existing well site to dispose of up to 15,000 barrels per day of waste from hydraulic fracturing -- “fracking” -- the latest method of extracting oil and natural gas from deep in the Eagle Ford shale.
Fracking has brought a steady stream of workers and jobs to South Central Texas, as the process is used to extract previously unattainable fossil fuels from the shale formation that lies deep under Texas. It also has brought increased traffic to area roads, and increased revenues to area hotels, motels, restaurants, and retail outlets. In addition, the exploration for oil and gas has brought the need for means to dispose of a variety of waste products.
An estimated crowd of 240 packed the Chamber of Commerce Hall last Wednesday. Some participants wanted to air concerns to state Rep. John Kuempel, who was present. Others just wanted more information. The mixed group ranged from whole families with small children to retirees, and elected officials to public-office hopefuls.
Jackson spoke out against the well, citing safety issues and examples of accidents and fires at similar disposal well sites in Texas. (See ‘Up against the well,’ right/left.)
Going to bat for the owner of the well site and the safety of such wells was Keith Johanson, owner of La Vernia Pump & Supply and an oil-well operator for more than three decades, who discussed the well’s safety and related issues. (See ‘Fracking support,’ right/left.)
Several speakers expressed concerns about property values dropping in the wake of the saltwater injection well and a sewage disposal site on Kothmann Road nearby, as well as the increased truck traffic and the safety hazards associated with it.
Emotive speech included references to deadly chemicals and gases, hazardous driving by trucking operators, road damage, and more.
Several speakers questioned if the fluids injected into the well would affect local sources of drinking water, including private water wells, water supply corporation sources, and municipal wells.
“Who spits in their cup, hoping that they’ll get past that [to the water they want to drink]?” asked Kevin Langdon. “That’s what we’re talking about doing here.”
“Wherever they’re extracting this stuff, dump it in that county,” said Linda Nichols. “We don’t need this!”
The related increase in road traffic, especially 18-wheelers, also raised concerns.
Bill Osborne, a local land broker, has turned down work to source sites for Eagle Ford shale-related motels, he said.
“Rural roads that used to be nice are falling apart,” he said. “In 15 minutes one day I counted 31 18-wheelers going by.
“...We like it a lot here and I ain’t going down without a fight.
“We’re not in the Eagle Ford shale,” he continued. “Leave it down there!”
After comments from the public, Kuempel addressed the audience.
“I commend y’all on a well-run meeting,” he said. “Our office will remain committed to each and every one of you. ... Remember, this is a Railroad Commission decision.”
Olsen closed the meeting with a plea from his heart.
“Where does it begin? Where does it end? Living here is a cherished realization of my and my wife’s dreams.”
No one representing Geomeg spoke during the event.
Up against the well
Wilson County Com-munity Values Association founder Gary Jackson told the crowd that Geomeg has applied to dispose of up to 15,000 barrels of waste fluids from fracking. The current setup on the site isn’t sufficient to manage the proposed volume, he said. He and Olsen, along with other neighbors and concerned area residents, hope to stop the injection. Necessary improvements and safety features, such as containment berms, are not in place at present, Jackson said. During a PowerPoint presentation, he shared images of the site, and images of similar sites in Texas where safety issues have arisen, including fires in Rosharon in 2003 and in Pearsall in January 2012.
“I want Geomeg to tell me what they’ll do to protect my property,” he said.
The organization is accepting donations. Contact them at WCCVA, P.O. Box 193, La Vernia, TX 78121.
Keith Johanson, owner of La Vernia Pump & Supply, told the crowd, “I’ve been an oil operator for 31 years. I feel partially responsible for Patrick [Marable] opening this facility. I asked if Patrick would open it up for commercial use.”
Johanson has a number of wells in the area, and advised that saltwater is a byproduct of any oil drilling process and there is “no option but to dispose of the water in injection wells.” The nearest disposal sites are miles away, and this would make it easier for operators in the Wilson County area to dispose of their saltwater.
“The well is very safe,” said Johanson, who sold the equipment for the well.
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May 2, 2012 1:54pm
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