Small, poor towns across the country are increasingly subject to the nearby placement of dangerous waste storage operations. Unfortunately, these towns rarely have full representation at the regulatory stage to ensure the safety of their residents. Stag Liuzza represents residents against the Town of Wheatfield in New York where companies dumped Love Canal waste. Stag Liuzza also previously represented clients living near a municipal landfill in which radioactive wastes were improperly dumped.
Oil Industry Landfill Proposed for Location Next to Small Town Drinking Wells
Residents of Paxton, Texas, are now desperately trying to avoid similar fates to our current and former clients. McBride Operating, LLC is attempting to place a massive landfill next to the tiny Texas town of 850. This proposed landfill will accept hundreds of millions of tons of oilfield waste for burial or injection. The proposed landfill will serve as a disposal site for the waste generated from the oil and gas production process, including drill cuttings, drilling mud, and hydraulic fracturing fluid.
Oilfield Wastes a Growing Concern
Disposal of oilfield wastes from the fracking boom in the Haynesville Shale is a growing concern in Texas and Louisiana. The proposed site for the landfill is approximately 1,500 feet from the drinking water wells for the town of Paxton. Additionally, Paxton overlies the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer which extends from Louisiana to Mexico and provides drinking water to 66 Texas counties.
Regulators Often Favors Industry
The Texas Railroad Commission, the agency responsible for landfill permitting, has twice rejected the proposal by McBride due to contamination concerns. However, the Railroad Commissioner is a former landfill developer seemingly more concerned with the cost of waste disposal. The Commissioner suggested the Commission provide comments and suggestions before requesting McBride to resubmit its application. This is despite four previous requests to amend the application since 2019.
Profits over People is a Sad Reality
“The cost for oil and gas waste disposal in East Texas is high, and I don’t want to negatively affect production in the area,” Wright said. Regulators more concerned with company profits than the health and safety of citizens is an unfortunate reality. Deep pocketed companies with teams of attorneys have the advantage.
A Big Operation with Big Risks
Opponents of the landfill argue that it poses significant environmental and health risks to the surrounding communities. They are concerned about potential groundwater contamination, air pollution, and the release of toxic chemicals into the environment. The landfill is also located in a flood-prone area, which raises additional concerns about the potential for the release of hazardous waste during floods or other natural disasters.
In addition to environmental concerns, residents fear the impact the landfill will have on property values and quality of life. McBride wants to locate the landfill near residential areas, schools, and parks. The addition of an industrial landfill could stigmatize the area making it less attractive to new residents and businesses.
Despite Best Efforts, Safety Measures Often Fail
McBride argues it will build and operate the landfill to the highest environmental standards. The developer states that safety measures will be in place to prevent any environmental harm. However, this is a common refrain by Texas industry when seeking permits. Stag Liuzza represents homeowners near an organic peroxide plant that ignited due to loss of cooling during Hurricane Harvey. The ensuing fire contaminated nearby homes and aggravated nearby residents. Despite backup safety systems in place, the operator lost control of the plant and nearby residents suffered.
Landfill Placement Decision Should Not be Taken Lightly
The decision to proceed with the landfill is ultimately in the hands of the Texas Railroad Commission. Regardless of the outcome, placement of industrial landfills is a complex issue that requires careful consideration and significant scrutiny. Potential benefits and risks must be carefully evaluated to ensure protection of the local community and the environment. It is also critical that citizen safety takes precedent over industry profits in deciding where to place these dangerous businesses.