Contact: Donna Hoffman, (512) 477-1729 or (512) 299-5776
Under Pressure from Citizens, EPA to Provide Water for Oil and Gas-polluted Rural Community
East Texas Environmental Justice Hero Wins Long Battle for a Clean Drink of Water
(Austin/DeBerry, TX) - The citizens living on County Road 329 near the Louisiana border in Panola County, Texas can finally, reasonably expect a drink of clean water after Reverend David Hudson won a big victory yesterday in his four-year battle to help his community recover from oil and gas waste disposal.
Documentation of complaints from community members date back
to 1996 and span through recent years when Reverend Hudson's
claim of negligence by one company, Basic Energy Services,
was dismissed by the Texas Rail Road Commission and Texas
Commission on Environmental Quality.
"After four years of bureaucratic nightmares, Reverend David Hudson's application of law is finally going to pay off," said Donna Hoffman with the
Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. "There are many cases all over Texas
where oil and gas companies are causing environmental ruin through irresponsible waste disposal. Reverend Hudson has led the defense and wins the prize for never being silent."
Hudson, a participant in the Sierra Club's Environmental Justice program,
has communicated with the Lone Star Chapter since 2005.
Region VI of the Environmental Protection Agency decided at a meeting in Bethany, Texas to apply CERCLA, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act funds to hook up local residents to a main water line from a neighboring Panola-Bethany water system so that they can access clean water for their homes.
Richard Franklin of E.P.A. Region VI said that the water pipeline would be
installed by Fall 2007. "We just got the 'ok' from our Division Director
and we're putting plans together; we have to get easements. I think we can get it done within three months, weather permitting," said Franklin. He acknowledged that the pollution "certainly could have come from oil and gas."
"All of the contaminants are related to oil and gas disposal waste," said Reverend David Hudson who advocated for his relatives and neighbors in every applicable State and Federal administrative and legislative venue and in the courts and press.
"The crucial issue is negligence in the operation by the oil and gas companies. They operated in the area with pits to collect waste from loading and unloading. Heavy rain caused overflow into the surface water.
Also, the overpressure from pumping waste into old injection wells cracked the pipe casings and leaked toxic lead, radio-nuclides, and other chemicals into our aquifer," said Hudson.
Reverend Hudson was not alone in his efforts.
Alongside numerous residents of Panola County, Hudson was joined at the EPA meeting yesterday by citizens with serious problems from oil and gas contamination all over Texas. Effected citizens came from Erath, Harrison, Lampasas, Robertson, Rusk, and Smith Counties in support of the Panola County case and to exchange information and organize. The citizens plan to organize a network to protest and recover from oil and gas industry pollution.
"I believe the system works if we can keep professional lobbyists out who work for the oil and gas industry," said community leader David Hudson. "I think we have some environmental rules in place that can protect citizens if responsible companies abide by them and agencies enforce the rules that are in place. The problem is that nobody seems to want to abide by them in Texas. I'm elated that the EPA has showed compassion, concern, and responsibility. "
"Citizens are suffering the effects of toxic contamination of their air and water from oil and gas industry practices. The most encouraging sign is that they are exchanging information and organizing. I believe we will see them put a stop to oil and gas industry pollution in rural Texas," said Hoffman.
"Afterall, everyone wants, deserves, and has the legal right to clean water to drink and clean air to breathe."