During its July 8 meeting, Karnes County Commissioners Court discussed a proposed resolution opposing the application by RTC Energy Group, LLC for a permit to dispose oilfield waste on the surface of a location on Farm-to-Market Road 99 at the Karnes-Atascosa County Line.
Karnes County resident Sue Carter said she is part of a group that was formed to protest the approval of a permit for the facility.
“What I would like to do is encourage the commissioners court to please sign a resolution opposing this application,” Carter said.
Carter said hazardous materials would be stacked on the land two or three stories tall in an open pit. She said air quality and water quality in the area would be at risk.
“We understand that these facilities have to go somewhere, but they do not need to be placed right in the middle of a farming community where people live and have homes,” Carter said. “It is possible to find places that aren’t quite so populated.”
“I honestly believe that if this goes in, we will not be able to live or work close to the facility,” Carter said. “It will be so dangerous and the air will be so polluted.”
The hearing before the Texas Railroad Commission, Carter explained, is set for July 18.
County Judge Richard Butler told the court that he had minor experience with the type of materials that are proposed to be disposed at the proposed site.
Water-based oilfield cuttings were planned to be placed at a site near his property, and after about six months of operations, Butler said he noticed terrible odors coming from the location.
“It smelled like I had my nose up to a diesel pump and was sniffing it,” Butler said.
Butler said the facility had temporarily received permission to store oil-based cuttings at the site, which he was able to determine were the source of the foul odors.
“That is one of the things that they are intending to dispose of permanently on this property,” Butler said. “When the wind was blowing correctly, you could smell it at my house which was about a quarter mile away and you could smell it all over my pasture. And that was something like one hundredth of the size of what they are planning to put out there at FM 99.”
Butler said allowing the facility to go in would cause tremendous reduction of surface use and property values.
“Nobody would want to be next to one,” Butler said.
It is a real problem in the industry, Butler explained, that many things necessary to continued production are unwanted by residents who live or work anywhere nearby.
“The solution, I think, is to find a large landowner,” Butler said, “and you can put this facility in his property so that it will not be surrounded by neighbors.”
Butler said many people would be adversely affected if the project moved forward, and furthermore, it would diminish the image of Karnes County for visitors traveling along FM 99.
“This is a gateway to our county,” Butler said. “It would be quite a welcome to come here... ‘this is Karnes County and I know because I am passing this stinking pile of three-story-high waste material disposed in the open air.’”
“You know that would not be a very good welcome to the county,” Butler said.
The company, Butler said, likely chose the location for the facility because it was cheaper than other alternatives and are now aiming for a very highly profitable venture.
“Every neighboring landowner opposes it, vehemently,” Butler said, adding that the location should be more isolated than the one in question.
The company moved forward with its plans without first consulting with any of the neighbors in the area, Butler said.
Where the waste materials would go when the inevitable flooding from heavy rains happens was another concern Butler voiced. The hazardous materials could end up in local creeks, rivers or groundwater if not completely and effectively contained.
“I think they need to reconsider how they will affect the neighboring property owners,” Butler said. “Maybe I am old fashioned, but I just feel like if I owned a piece of property and I was going to do something that I thought would adversely affect my neighbors, I would talk to them and try to resolve something – try to see if there is some way to be a good neighbor to them.”
“To build a toxic waste facility next to somebody’s property is not exactly being a good neighbor,” Butler said.
Butler made a motion to approve a resolution opposing the application for a permit for the facility.
Commissioner Tracey Schendel seconded the motion which passed on a 3-0 vote. (Commissioners Shelby Dupnik and James Rosales were not present at the meeting.)