Tuesday, June 7, 2011

EOG Sand Mine Threatens Cooke/Montague County Residents' Air, Water, Livelihoods

Cooke and Montague County residents are banding together once again to counter yet another fracking industry project that threatens water and air resources, as well as property values, public safety, and quality of life.

EOG is attempting to establish a frack sand mining facility at 14596 North 373 FM Road, Saint Jo, Cooke County Texas 76265. The EOG frac sand excavation, processing, and transporting involves clearing 1400 acres of woodlands near Mountain Creek, mining the frac sand, washing and drying the sand, and loading the sand into the trucks to transport.

The first action of clearing and burning the Mountain Creek woodlands began during the fall of 2010. Most residents and local government officials were unaware of the details of this action. In the spring of 2011, when the extent of clearing the land was more visible, local citizens called local officials, including the county fire marshal, county commissioners, and NRCS, who referred the calls to TCEQ.

Dallas TCEQ planned a site visit, but the TCEQ staffer reported that she was unable to see anything as the gate at the site was locked. Dallas TCEQ in turn referred the group to the Railroad Commission (RRC), who referred the group back to TCEQ.

The Dallas TCEQ provided the phone numbers of the regional TCEQ in Fort Worth, who eventually referred the group to Dick Lewis, TCEQ public relations in Austin. Lewis provided the phone number of Larry Buller, TCEQ’s engineer and case handler for EOG’s application for Air Quality Permit #95412.

The public notice of EOG’s application for an air quality permit lists the chemicals emitted into the air by the excavation, processing, and transportation of frack sand. The permit notice went into the Muenster Enterprise only; Saint Jo residents were not notified of EOG’s intent.

In search of more detailed information about the EOG’s frac sand mining facility construction and processing procedures, local residents contacted the North Texas Groundwater Conservation District, and the Army Corp of Engineers (ACE) in Lewisville, Texas.

The Lewisville Corps of Engineers office referred the call to the Army Corp of Engineers’ Tulsa office, which has jurisdiction over the Red River. The Tulsa ACE office stated that EOG filed the correct permit and that there would be “no impact to the waters of the United States.”

The Railroad Commission was contacted again with queries concerning a proposed gas line going from Montague County through private properties to the sand mining location in Cooke County. It is inferred that the gas line will serve as a source of energy for processing the frack sand. The RRC Safety Pipeline Division was contacted and the person in charge stated that no T-4 permit had been filed by EOG as of June 3, 2011.

During the last week of April and first two weeks of May, a small group of local residents scrambled to research frack sand mining and its impact on the environment. What was learned from various websites on frack sand locations in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois caused great concern for both the local and more distant environment.

The small group rushed to inform the residents of Saint Jo proper, rural residents in between FM2382 and FM677, the County Commissioners, and the North Texas Groundwater Conservation District to contact the TCEQ to request a public meeting with TCEQ and EOG in the near future.

This meeting was requested in order for the questions and concerns to be addressed about frack sand processing hazards to the local residents’ health and to the dangers posed to the farming and cattle community environment. About 70 people attended, and in the following week before the initial public comment deadline, TCEQ's comment website registered 67 comments, including many requests for a public meeting and a contested case hearing.

In the May 27, 2011, issue of the Saint Jo Tribune, public notice of EOG's application for TCEQ air quality permit number 95412 was again published, with a new 30-day comment period, in response to residents' complaints that the initial public notice had been published only in the Muenster Enterprise, thus escaping the notice of many people living in the areas to be impacted by the sand mine.

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