AUSTIN - As lawmakers head toward Monday’s legislative session end, state Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) is making a last-ditch effort to get legislation passed to improve public notification when applications are filed with the Texas Railroad Commission for new commercial waste disposal wells.
With Miller leading the way, the House amended Senate Bill 3 to require that county commissioners, the county judge and groundwater conservation districts be notified when waste disposal well permits are sought.
The Miller-pushed amendment also would require that notification of such a permit application be published in the newspaper “closest to the well site.” That’s in addition to the current requirement that such notification be published in the largest circulating newspaper in the county.
Furthermore, the proposal would require that affected landowners notify tenants who are renting property near proposed well sites, Miller said.
“If they don’t, they could be fined for that,” Miller said Thursday.
The bill, as further amended by Rep. Rob Orr of Burleson, would require oil and gas companies, if they drill a well, to comply with groundwater conservation district regulations, Miller said.
However, Miller said, the bill wouldn’t allow a waste disposal well permit to be denied by groundwater conservation districts.
“We don’t want to drive the oil and gas industries out of our counties,” Miller said.
SB 3 is now back in the Senate for conference, and if the Senate rejects the House amendments, the bill will be sent to a joint House-Senate conference committee to work the differences.
Meanwhile, a seemingly dead bill - which Miller has adamantly opposed - to reward the highest-performing charter schools and close the worst has been revived.
On Wednesday, Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, amended the measure into a bill to prevent dropouts.
Miller has been attacked for trying to derail Shapiro’s effort.
Critics have called Miller’s efforts a conflict of interest because Miller’s wife, Debra, is director of a charter school - Erath Excels! Academy - and that Miller shouldn’t be voting on the bill and drafting amendments to defeat it.
Miller contends it is not a conflict because his wife is just an employee at the school and that the state of Texas actually “owns it.”
Additionally, Miller said the bill wouldn’t even result in Excels! Academy closing because, under its guidelines, Excels! Academy would meet the appropriate standards.
“It’ll (the legislation) be back in the House for consideration,” Miller said.
Miller said he expects the House to send the bill back to the Senate and ask that the Shapiro amendment be stripped.
DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.