Friday, November 21, 2014
Agency chooses politics over evidence | Last Word
In these days of political discord, it’s gratifying to smell the rare scent of unanimity.
According to the Express-News this week the mayors of all seven cities in neighboring Guadalupe County and the county commissioners from Guadalupe, Wilson and Gonzales counties all agree on one thing.
They don’t want a big landfill over the recharge zone of the Carrizo/Wilcox Aquifer, a huge aquifer that stretches all the way from Mexico to Arkansas and serves nearly 10 million people.
Neither does the Guadalupe County Groundwater Conservation District, which is charged by the state with preserving and protecting the aquifers in its area.
The problem, they argue, is that because the site sits on the aquifer outcrop, polluting fluids could seep through the sand into the aquifer.
In addition, the district says that there are about 70 old oil and gas wells on the property, just south of I-10 nearly 10 miles east of Sequin.
Some of the abandoned wells have not been located and some have not been properly capped, officials say.
The landfill company has made its case to the conservation district over the past several years, but to no avail.
Despite assurances that the company would protect the aquifer, the district is seeking to bar the landfill.
The latest development is that the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality has jumped into a lawsuit between the landfill company and the conservation district.
On the side of the landfill company.
To be clear, the TCEQ has not taken the position that the dump should be sited over the aquifer’s recharge zone.
It just says that decision is its own, not the Guadalupe County Groundwater Conservation District’s.
You can’t blame the good folks of Guadalupe County and environs.
They may have data to show the danger to the aquifer, but the TCEQ has proven itself not to be a data-driven organization.
Long-time viewers may recall earlier discussions of this fact.
One was when the TCEQ commissioned a study of rising seawaters at Galveston, only to censor the findings by a highly-regarded Rice University professor.
He found that the water level was rising at six times the annual rate of not long ago.
He wrote that this was due to the melting of the polar ice cap due to global warming that is partially caused by human activity.
The data supporting the expert is politically controversial, but not among climate scientists.
TCEQ showed itself siding with the politicians when its spokeswoman said the passage was deleted because it is “inconsistent with current agency policy.”
Similarly, last spring the TCEQ denied the Alamo Area Council of Governments a $185,000 grant because it had released to the public a study indicating that fracking in the Eagle Ford area was having an impact on San Antonio air quality.
It was carrying pollution up on Gulf breezes.
AACOG did violate a section of the contract for the study.
It was required to submit the study to the TCEQ and obtain permission before releasing it to the media.
But it is more than reasonable to suspect that had the study indicated no impact on our air quality from fracking, there would have been no serious punishment.
The folks in Guadalupe want an evidence-based policy when it comes to a dump over their aquifer recharge zone.
And the evidence is that they can’t rely on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.