Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Public Comment Period Ends June 24: Informational Meetings June 14 and 16 in Muenster and Saint Jo

EOG Resources, Inc., a corporation that was once part of Enron, has set its sights on draining Cooke and Montague county residents’ groundwater, and putting their air quality at risk.

Upcoming meetings in Saint Jo and Muenster will give citizens a chance to find out what’s going on – and what they can do about it.

These informational meetings will take place on June 14 at 6:00 PM at Rohmer’s in Muenster, and on June 16 at 6:30 PM at the Civic Center in Saint Jo.

EOG has applied for an air quality permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for a facility where it will mine and process sand for use in hydraulic oil and gas well fracturing, or “fracking.” The facility is located at 14596 North FM 373, on the bank of Mountain Creek just a mile and a half above the creek’s discharge into the Red River.

Area residents have until June 24 to submit public comments on EOG’s permit application to TCEQ. They have the right to request a public meeting on the application, which would allow residents to put questions directly to EOG representatives. They can also request a contested case hearing, which focuses on the air pollution claims made in the application.

The process for submitting comments to TCEQ will be explained at the meetings, as well as at the end of this article.

According to EOG’s permit application, the sand mine will use 3,700 gallons of water every minute, and move 500 tons of sand every hour. The many risks of these activities to area residents include dry water wells, toxic air pollution, increased traffic hazards, and higher taxes to cover increased wear and tear on local roads.

Even downstream industries, such as the sport tourist fisheries in Lake Texoma, could be affected.

According to the Bowie News, groundwater pumping grew by 50% between 2009-10 in the four-county Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, as the boom in fracking has raced through the Barnett Shale.

The EOG sand mine will emit airborne contaminants including organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter, including particulate matter with diameters of 10 microns or less and 2.5 microns or less.

“Frack sand mining is another one of those environmental issues that the industry doesn't disclose when they ask for your signature on that mineral lease,” says Sharon Wilson, of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “It requires massive amounts of water, carries health risks and causes a lot of environmental destruction.”

Despite these dangers, area residents have few options available to fight the threat. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requires an air quality permit for operations of this type, which discharge fine particulate silicon, a human carcinogen.

“Frack sand acts like asbestos on your lungs. It's called silicosis,” says Wilson.

All public comments must be submitted to TCEQ either electronically at www.tceq.texas.gov/about/comments.html, or in writing to the Texas Commission on Environmental quality, Office of the Chief Clerk, MC-105, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, Texas 78711-3087.

While the agency will consider all comments received by the June 24 deadline, only those specifically requesting a public meeting and/or a contested case hearing will factor into the agency’s decision to hold those events.

Comments should reference proposed air quality permit number 95412.

In addition, those desiring to request a contested case hearing must include the following information in their submitted comments: (1) name, mailing address, daytime phone number, and fax number, if any; (2) applicant’s name (EOG Resources, Inc.) and permit number (95412), the statement “[I/we] request a contested case hearing”; (4) a specific description of how you would be adversely affected by the application and air emissions from the facility in a way not common to the general public; (5) the location and distance of your property relative to the facility; and (6) a description of how you use the property which is made by a group or association.

TCEQ must also grant a public meeting and/or a contested case hearing if these are requested by local legislators. The legislators whose districts include the EOG Cooke County Sand Mine are Sen. Craig Estes (940.898.0331; craig.estes@senate.state.tx.us) and Rep. Rick Hardcastle (940.553.3825; rick.hardcastle@house.state.tx.us).

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