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Crossroads resident speaks out against injection well at administrative hearing

By ALLISON MILES
July 13, 2012 at 2:13 a.m.


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Gayle Parenica is no lawyer, but on Friday she made her best attempt to resemble one.

Parenica went before the Texas Railroad Commission at an administrative law hearing opposing the erection of a possible injection well near her family's Lavaca County land, near Yoakum.

The commission made no official ruling, she said, explaining it asked the other side, Austin-based Pinnergy Ltd., for evidence regarding the number of commercial well sites within 10 miles of the proposed site.

Parenica, who represented herself, said she stayed up most of Thursday night preparing for the big day and going over information.

When the hearing began at 9 a.m., she said Pinnergy began by presenting its case, while she then cross-examined them. She later presented her side.

Without a legal background, she said the process was intimidating.

"Not ... knowing the legal protocol for the procedures makes it very difficult to go up against someone who is well-versed in that," she said, noting she was asked to introduce only evidence and no narrative. "There was a little bit of an imbalance there, but I tried."

Calls to Mark Mayfield, an Austin attorney representing Pinnergy, were not returned as of 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Environmental issues are the railroad commission's main focus at such hearings, said Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman with the organization.

Applicants must demonstrate the well will be constructed in a way that will not impact groundwater, she said, and that the fluid they will dispose of in deep underground formations will remain confined.

Still, the process doesn't end once the hearing does.

The next step is a recommendation legal and technical examiners write up in the following 60 to 90 days, she said. Once issued, those who disagree with the decision can file written exceptions, while those who support the decision can file replies to exceptions.

That staff recommendation eventually goes to the three railroad commissioners, who will take final action.

"There's still a long administrative law process," Nye said Friday.

Parenica said she realized the issue would take a while. Still, while she was glad when her long day ended Friday, she was anxious for a ruling.

"It's a relief, but it's a disappointment," she said of the hearing, which ended about 4 p.m. "We don't know what the outcome is. We won't know that for a while."

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