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The Source: Big Oil Challenging Water District Rights

Environmental Protection Agency

Tomorrow morning the Texas Railroad Commission  considers whether or not a groundwater district has the standing to protest the permitting of waste water disposal wells. The commission is tasked with regulating the oil and gas industry.

Wastewater disposal wells are used by the oil and gas industry to dispose of the water and chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing. Wells are drilled under the water table with the hope that they don't affect drinking water, but some issues have been traced to the wells.

Marathon Oil Company has disputed the idea that Gonzales Underground Water Conservation District, or any water district,  has the legal standing to challenge permit applications to the commission.

The Gonzales water district is currently challenging Marathon's permit for a wastewater disposal well that is in the county but outside its district, since it sits on the Wilcox-Carrizo Aquifer.

Water districts are empowered by the state in many ways: They provide services to consumers, can levy taxes and incur debt. They often have access to studies that the Railroad Commission doesn't. Districts often think of themselves as experts on their water supplies which is why they have been able to weigh in on these permits in the past.


  • J.D. Head, environmental lawyer who has represented conservation districts in the past.
  • Greg Sengelmann, general manager of Gonzales County Underground Water Conservation District
  • *Marathon Oil Company was contacted for this segment, but has not yet replied by the time of this post.

*This is the second segment in the May 21 edition of The Source, which airs at 3 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM. Audio from this show will be posted by 5:30 p.m.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive