Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Victoria County should support proposed changes
Every once in a while, local officials have the chance to set a precedent on something that has become a statewide or even nationwide issue. Last week, the Victoria County Commissioners Court had that opportunity but instead chose to pass it on.
At the April 15 meeting, Lisa Campbell, a Victoria public health nurse and associate professor at Texas Tech University, presented a proposal to the commissioners court requesting the county make three small changes to the rules involving proposed injection wells in Victoria County. The changes were: require mailed notifications of applications for saltwater and/or oil and gas waste disposal to adjacent property owners, create a mailing list of people interested in receiving notice of applications for waste disposal and injection well permits, and require companies applying for a permit to provide a map of the proposed well's location and a list of chemicals in the disposal process. Campbell also hopes to persuade the Texas Railroad Commission to include the locations of disposal well application sites on its Public GIS Map Viewer.
These are relatively small changes that would better inform Victoria County residents about the oil and gas industry's activity in the county. Citizens have the right to request changes to the Railroad Commission, but Campbell believes the suggestions would be stronger coming from a county government than from a lone citizen.
We agree with Campbell's assessment. Injection wells are necessary parts of the oil and gas drilling process, and the chemicals and other compounds used must be safely disposed of. But as Campbell pointed out in the meeting, the long-term effects of injection wells are not known as of yet. Campbell's proposed changes ask that the chemicals involved be named but don't require an exact breakdown of how much of each chemical was used, which will help protect trade secrets.
Unfortunately, the commissioners court chose to give a non-answer to this request by telling Campbell she should take her arguments to the state. Commissioners had the opportunity to step forward and champion a proposal that would help residents stay informed about waste disposal in our county and across the state, if the proposals were adopted. Instead, the court chose to pass the buck on to the state.
This choice is disappointing, given Victoria County's involvement in the Eagle Ford Shale activity. This proposal could offer residents a better, more complete picture of injection wells and waste disposal in our area. It would create a better sense of accountability while not placing too much of a burden on the industry. With the support of an entire county behind it, the proposal could carry much more weight and have a better chance of success with the state.
We encourage the county to return to this issue and support this call for more information when it comes to disposing of chemicals in our area. Our environment and natural resources are too important not to take action.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.