The $57,000 check comes only days after a recent controversial report by an area television station that some Eagle Ford Shale oil companies were threatening lawsuits to avoid similar road use agreements.
In a statement issued in August, Deb Hastings, executive vice president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association, countered that report saying that the association has made no threat of a lawsuit.
“The roads situation is serious in South Texas and elsewhere where oil and gas development is expanding,” Hastings said in a written statement. “Funding is necessary to repair and improve existing roads.
“The Legislature will determine the source of that funding.
“A change in law may be required to refigure how funds are allocated to local municipalities.
“For example, oil and gas operators paid more than $9 billion in taxes and royalties to the state in fiscal 2011.
“We need to assess if those funds are getting into the right hands for emerging needs.”
While Hastings says that she would prefer to have a change in how money is distributed, County Commissioner Dennis DeWitt says that his preference would be to continue the agreements and avoid the bureaucracy.
DeWitt, authorized by the county court to be the point man for these local road use agreements, said, “We deal on a daily basis with these companies.
“To be honest, I would rather deal locally with them.”
County Judge David Silva in contrast was a proponent to the idea of the state contributing more money to local entities for road repairs and dropping the current local contract method.
Of course, he was in agreement only to the theory.
“The formula hasn’t been worked out,” he said, adding that his opinion could change depending upon what is actually presented to the legislature. “If they could assure of us of a set amount, it would be good to get it from the state.”
“It would be better from a logistics point of view,” he said. “When we sent out these three contracts, we didn’t know when or if they were going to send money.
“It is them being a good corporate partner.”
As of this week, only Pioneer Natural Resources has signed a payment contract, although negotiations with the other two energy companies operating in Bee County are continuing.
However, he added, all have contributed in one way or another to helping maintain the county’s road infrastructure.
“These folks do want to work with us,” he said, adding that this contribution sometimes will come in the form of companies supplying the material to repair the roadways with the county supplying the manpower. “They are still considered our partners even if there has been some pushback.”
Attempts to get signed contracts from Talisman and BHP Billiton, which recently bought PetroHawk, have failed.
BHP, he said, hasn’t said no to the agreement, but DeWitt said that it doesn’t appear likely the firm will sign.
Even as he spoke on Tuesday morning, a representative from Talisman had just walked into DeWitt’s office to update him on their efforts to get that contract signed.
“They are still evaluating,” he said. “It is not off the books. They are still looking at it. I appreciate them coming by to let us know that in person.”
All of this comes, DeWitt reminded, with everybody knowing that the county has no actual enforcement power to limit the use of the roadways by these companies.
“That is what makes me feel good about this,” he said.
“They want to work with us.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.