Local “watchdog” Bill Gordon is praising the efforts of State Representative Sid Miller for encouraging the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to force Liberty Pressure Pumping in Bluff Dale to either comply with state air regulations or shut down.

In a letter sent to Troy Walker, TCEQ regional director, Miller stated that he has heard from numerous citizens concerned that Liberty is operating without an air-quality permit.

“Based on information from the citizens of Bluff Dale, the company in its current operation, is producing numerous health and safety concerns to the local residents,” the letter stated. “It is my understanding that operating without such a permit is out of line with state regulations and I respectfully request an explanation from TCEQ of Liberty Pressure Pumping LP’s operation without the required permit.”

The letter went on to request that the TCEQ force the company to stop production until a permit can be granted, ensuring that compliance with state air regulations has been met.

Gordon said Miller has responded to the “citizens pleas for help.”

Gordon became involved in the issue earlier this year after former Liberty employee Bob Pilger claimed the silica sand the company furnishes to the oil and gas industry made him sick.

“Silica crystalline dust has been declared a hazardous material by OSHA and can cause cancer and other lung diseases,” Gordon said. “One employee has already become ill from breathing the dust and is unable to work. Liberty has terminated the employee and instructed their insurance company to not pay his medical expenses and disability benefits.”

Liberty Pressure Pumping began operations in Bluff Dale in January. The company has been cited two times in the past few months by TCEQ, once for operating without an air quality operating permit, and again, recently, for expanding their operation by installing new equipment without an air quality operating permit.

Last month the citizens of Bluff Dale sent a petition, signed by approximately 120 Bluff Dale, Erath County, and other Texas citizens, to Miller and State Senator Troy Fraser asking for their help in resolving the matter.

SARA VANDEN BERGE is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379, ext. 240.