Three state Rep. Sid Miller-backed pieces of legislation have received House approval and are headed for Senate consideration, including one aimed at imposing stricter rules protecting those affected by oil and gas waste disposal wells.
Under Miller’s HB 521, landowners would be required to notify people living on land possibly affected by a disposal well “as soon as they themselves are notified.”
Miller’s legislation came, in part, after some people renting property complained they weren’t informed of plans to put in an oil and gas waste disposal well near where they were living.
“I am happy to help rectify this situation,” Miller said. “There have been a few incidents in Hico when the landowners chose not to notify people renting houses or contracting to purchase land of planned disposal wells. There are processes in place to appeal the implementation of the disposal wells, but people cannot do so when they are not notified of what is taking place.”
In addition, Miller’s HB 521 would tighten rules governing public notification by oil and gas companies.
Currently, Miller’s office said, a notice must be placed in the largest newspaper publication in the county. However in many areas, especially rural ones, that “can be many miles away, so HB 521 will also require a notice to be published in the newspaper with closest proximity to the proposed well,” Miller’s office said.
Furthermore, county commissioners and local groundwater conservation districts would be notified of the disposal well, and “anyone receiving notice under this legislation will have the opportunity to request a protest hearing,” according to Miller’s office.
Bill Gordon, president of Erath County Citizens for Clean Water, applauded HB 521.
“In August, 2006, a drilling rig showed up at the edge of town in Hico,” Gordon said. “The citizens thought they were getting in on the Barnett Shale Natural Gas boom. They were not only surprised, but angry as well (and rightfully so), when they realized they were getting a 30,000 bpd (barrels per day), 270 tanker trucks per day, commercial oil and gas waste disposal well because the public notice was published in Hamilton, … 20 miles away.
“Representative Miller’s HB 521 will keep this from happening to other small towns in Texas - this is good.”
Now, Gordon said additional support is “required by” Rep. Miller and Sen. Troy Fraser to “correct another serious issue plaguing the citizens of Texas.”
“Current RRC regulations only allow ‘adjoining’ landowners to qualify as ‘affected persons’ when opposing commercial oil and gas waste disposal facilities,” Gordon said.
Gordon said “this issue” was recently demonstrated with the application by N. Barba Enterprises for a 30,000 barrel per day commercial disposal well near Huckabay where there were over 800 “protestants” and only four qualified as “affected persons” under current RRC regulations.
“The current laws worked fine in the wide open spaces of West Texas, but they are not working at all in the heavily populated communities involved in the Barnett Shale play,” Gordon said. “I believe both Representative Miller and Senator Fraser realize this as they both have recently sent letters to the RRC supporting our effort to protect our communities and drinking water source.”
Meanwhile, Miller’s office also touted House passed of HB 461, which would make the current National Animal Identification System completely voluntary.
“The legislation contains many provisions furthering lightening the burden upon animal owners and works to ensure that the program remains a truly voluntary program,” Miller’s office said.
HB 461 includes language prohibiting anyone from “discriminating or with-holding services to anyone not registered with the NAIS and requires full disclosure and informed consent before anyone can sign up for the program,” his office said.
Additionally, Miller’s office said, HB 461 allows people to withdraw from the program at any time and have their information deleted without penalty.
“This is an important piece of legislation to protect our property rights and those of our families,” Miller said. “House Bill 461 helps end the reach of big brother into our rural lives and communities.”
Finally, Miller’s office talked of the importance of HB 460, which would make stealing the identity of a deceased person a crime.
Currently, Miller’s office said, living people are protected in the Penal Code from someone collecting certain information about them and using it to harm or defraud. HB 460 would give a deceased person under the same protection.
“Because stillborn babies are often issued death certificates containing identifying information, HB 460 also clarifies that fraudulently using information of a stillborn is a crime,” Miller’s office said.
Miller said he was shocked when he learned several years ago that fraudulently using the identity of a dead person isn’t a crime.
“I have been working hard on this piece of legislation ever since,” Miller said. “It is important that the dignity of the deceased is upheld and that the families do not continue to suffer after their loved-ones death by having to deal with a situation like this.”