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Property owner to protest injection well at state hearing

By Dianna Wray
July 7, 2012 at 2:07 a.m.
Updated July 8, 2012 at 2:08 a.m.


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To read more about the Texas Railroad Commission, click www.rrc.state.tx.us.

Gayle Parenica does not want a disposal/injection well installed across from her property.

On Friday, she will have the chance to voice her complaint and concerns with the Texas Railroad Commission, the state regulatory agency charged with permitting injection well sites.

Parenica is scheduled to appear before the Texas Railroad Commission in Austin for an administrative law hearing about the injection well.

Parenica's family has lived on a tract of land just outside Yoakum along state Highway 95 for generations. There has never been much oil drilling in the area, and the Eagle Ford Shale oil boom has not had a direct impact in the area, but it has led to a number of injection wells being drilled to dispose of waste liquids from drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

Companies inject chemicals and other waste materials into these wells below the water table to dispose of them after a well has been drilled.

Lavaca County has 12 active disposal/injection wells, said Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman with the Texas Railroad Commission.

Last March, Parenica learned that an injection well was slated to be installed on land just across the road from her family's property.

Pinnergy Ltd., an Austin-based company, has filed a permit application to place an injection well on 9.53 acres along state Highway 95. If the application is approved, the injection well will be a place for companies to dispose of the salt water that is laced with fracking chemicals used to drill wells in the Eagle Ford Shale.

Since then she has worked to learn everything she can about injection wells.

Only those living adjacent to an injection well site must be notified when an application is filed.

Parenica and those living nearby her family's land were alarmed when they learned of it.

Robert Janak has lived on his property for more than 50 years.

He said he is worried about the traffic that will increase.

Parenica said she is concerned about possible spills. Her land is downhill from the site, so anything that leaks or is spilled will flow across her property when it rains. She said she is also concerned about the possible impact to the water table, and whether pumping 45,000 barrels of waste per day will increase the pressure and cause earthquakes.

Parenica, a longtime Victoria resident who works for Region III Education Service Center, filed a protest against the well earlier this year.

If she had not filed a protest, the Railroad Commission would have reviewed the application once it was completed. If the applicant has demonstrated that a well will be constructed in a manner to protect usable quality groundwater and that the disposal fluid will be confined to the permitted interval, commission staff can administratively approve a disposal/injection well permit application, Nye said.

When a protest is filed, the commission conductes an administrative law hearing.

A Railroad Commission legal examiner and technical examiner will oversee the hearing on Friday between Parenica and Pinnergy Ltd. representatives.

Mark Mayfield, an attorney with Gardere Wynne and Sewell in Austin, is representing Pinnergy Ltd.

"Pinnergy is committed to the protection of Texas' drinking water and natural resources," Mayfield said in an email on Friday. "The company is confident that neither the drinking water nor the environment will be impacted by this disposal site, and will provide evidence of this to the Railroad Commission next week."

Parenica will be representing herself at the hearing. She tried to hire a lawyer for the case, but she said she couldn't get anyone to take the case.

"Every lawyer I've talked to, they've advised me that the chances are slim," she said. "They're reluctant to take the case because the odds of winning aren't high."

Parenica made a presentation before the Yoakum City Council, but was told the injection well is outside the council's jurisdiction. Because the county doesn't have a groundwater district, the Texas Railroad Commission is the only regulatory agency Parenica and her neighbors can appeal to, she said.

She has been preparing her evidence for the commission, consulting petroleum geologists, seismic companies, and reading material she can find about the subject.

Family and neighbors have also filed protests and will at Friday's hearing.

A final staff recommendation is expected between 60 to 90 days after the hearing. Then the Texas Railroad Commissioners will consider that recommendation in an open conference before voting to accept or deny the staff recommendations.

Parenica said she is hopeful the commission will see her side of things, but she knows they may not. But she is trying to stay positive and hope the company will move the injection well to someplace less populated.

"I just want people to be aware how complicated this thing is," she said. "At any time anyone who is a landowner in the state of Texas can find themselves fighting this same fight. I happen to be the face of it, but it's a predicament that anyone could face."

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