For the first time, environmental “watchdog” Bill Gordon has withdrawn his protest of an oil and gas company’s state application to locate a waste disposal well in Erath County.

In fact, Gordon is praising Infinity Oil and Gas, saying he is “convinced” the company will do “everything possible to be a good neighbor and work with us in protecting our families, communities, and drinking water.”

Infinity Oil and Gas has filed an application with the Railroad Commission of Texas to locate a non-commercial waste disposal well about 6.9 miles southeast of Alexander.

On Wednesday, Gordon asked others who had sent “protest letters” to the RRC in opposition to the proposed site to join him and “withdraw your protest letters also.”

“I realize that some of you may not agree with my recommendation, but this is a major accomplishment and it has the potential to show our elected officials and the RRC that concerned citizens can work with the oil and gas companies and make a difference,” Gordon said in an email. “Even though this is not the ultimate solution - it is a good start.”

In his withdrawal letter to the RRC, Gordon said Infinity Oil and Gas Vice President Jerry Gentry contacted him in January 2007 and expressed an interest in working with him on a project to drill the company’s second oil and gas waste disposal well in Erath County.

“Mr. Gentry and I have discussed many issues concerning the design, drilling, completion, testing, and the potential for contaminating the Trinity Aquifer - our only source of drinking water in Erath County,” Gordon said in the letter.

“First, and of most importance, this is not a commercial disposal well and will only be used for disposing of oil and gas waste produced by Infinity Oil and Gas. The produced water will be collected from local Infinity Oil and Gas wells by a pipeline gathering system that will eliminate most of the tanker truck activity in the area.”

Gordon said Gentry has submitted well bore drawings and completion plans that “show that the long string casing for the proposed well will be cemented from the injection zone (Ellenberger Formation) to the surface.”

“Even though this increases the cost of completing the well, both Mr. Gentry and I agree that this a ‘must’ to ensure that underground drinking water sources will be protected,” Gordon said.

In addition, Gordon said, Gentry has agreed to fund an “annual” (rather than a five-year test) Water Quality Monitoring Program to “test up to four nearby water wells within a one-mile radius for contamination from injected fluids.”

Gordon said the program is similar to one developed by the Hemphill County Underground Water Conservation District and adopted by the Middle Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (MTGCD) in November 2006. The MTGCD will monitor this Program, he said.

“Even though we do not desire to allow any more ‘commercial’ oil and gas waste disposal wells in Erath County, we do believe that we should dispose of the oil and gas waste in Erath County that is generated in Erath County - as long as it is accomplished and responsibly,” Gordon said.

After Gordon said an email asking others to withdraw their protests, Stephenville City Council member Mark Murphy said he was withdrawing his protest “I believe Infinity will be a good neighbor,” Murphy said.

DOUG MYERS is the Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at doug.myers@empiretribune.com or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.