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For Texans, fighting state-regulated oilfield waste dumps can be a costly, do-it-yourself effort

Some Texans who challenge oil and gas waste sites must spend significant sums and time on investigating what they say the Texas Railroad Commission should examine. Will new regulations for handling waste increase oversight or just maintain the status quo?

Tara Jones, who lives half a mile from the Blackhorn Environmental oil and gas waste facility near Orange Grove, says she spent almost a year learning the state’s regulatory rules and investigating the commercial dumping operation.

Railroad Commission’s role

Two wells of the Paxton Water Supply Corporation, shown here in January 2023, sit about 1,000 yards away from a controversial proposed dump site.

Uproar in East Texas

Christi Craddick, Commissioner of the Texas Railroad Commission, Chairman Wayne Christian, and Commissioner Jim Wright listen during an RRC hearing in the William B. Travis Building in Austin, Texas.

Critics’ perceptions of conflicts

Residents challenge disposal site

Built on a former caliche mine, the Blackhorn Environmental Services oil and gas waste disposal facility includes pits to separate solid and liquid material and other pits where waste is dried before it’s dumped in disposal cells.
Months after an oil and gas waste disposal facility opened near Tara Jones and her family’s home near Orange Grove, they started noticing a foul odor that would sometimes make them ill. Jones said it took more than a year of agitating before state regulators took action.

State goes to court

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Energy Environment State government Texas Railroad Commission