The application was protested by the City of Karnes City, the Karnes County Hospital District and two local residents.
“The proposed disposal well would be located in close proximity to Karnes City’s municipal boundaries and within the ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction) of Karnes City. There are 11 commercial disposal wells within a 10-mile radius of the prosed location,” RRC Examiner Carl Caldwell told the commission during a hearing on July 9.
Caldwell expressed the opinion that Supreme Vacuum Services did not establish that there is a need for additional disposal capacity in this area at this time. Caldwell recommended that the application and request to re-open the hearing be denied.
Don Tymrak, city manager for the City of Karnes City, spoke to the commission during their hearing, urging them to deny the permit because the facility at the proposed location would not be in the public’s best interest.
“I ask that you find that consideration of the totality of circumstances of this application reveal that it is only in the interest of the applicant and then I ask you to please vote to deny, as you have before,” Tymrak said.
Otto Kaiser Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer David Lee also spoke to the commission in opposition to the well.
Lee said the hospital’s main concern is related to how access to the hospital could be jeopardized in the event of an accident at the disposal facility.
“This is right on a major highway,” Lee said. “Highway 181, which is the only access to our facility from the north. In the event of an accident, we don’t want our community’s access to healthcare to suffer under those circumstance.”
“Recently,” Lee continued, “there were some events there and luckily there were no injuries in that recent explosion but that federal highway was shut down for two hours when that happened. Access to our hospital from the north, in that scenario, is totally cut off. There are ways to reroute traffic, but to me they are not viable solutions. Those are county roads that are not equipped for the traffic.”
“From the hospital district’s point of view we would ask that you deny the permit they are requesting,” Lee concluded.
Karnes County Commissioner Shelby Dupnik also spoke to the commission in opposition to the well and disposal facility, echoing many of the concerns expressed by Lee and Tymrak.
Dupnik said there are currently about 24 saltwater disposal facilities in Karnes County.
“I drive around my precinct and other precincts and I have not noticed anybody having any wait time,” Dupnik said. “It is all about the applicant’s gain and has nothing to do with the public’s interest.”
Dupnik said efforts are being made to bring the issue before the next session of the Legislature to give cities the authority to prohibit saltwater disposal facilities within their ETJs.
Lillian Lyssy, city council member for the City of Karnes City, also spoke in opposition to the permit, emphasizing that having such a facility so close to the city could hinder the city’s growth and economic development.
Cheryl Moy, a resident of Karnes City, also spoke in opposition to the permit, and pointed out that the highway where the facility is planned, is also a hurricane evacuation route.
“Personally, I can say that I am all for oil and gas,” Moy said. “It has brought much life to our city and to our county... This is just not conducive to a great environment, not just because the explosion happened there. Had the explosion not happened there, it still is not the ideal spot for this to be placed.”
“We didn’t lose any lives,” Moy said, ‘but there were warnings.”
Area resident Belinda Pace also spoke in opposition to the facility at the proposed location, noting that she was trapped on her property when there was a recent explosion at the site and it was a scary situation for her and other residents in the area.
An attorney representing Supreme Vacuum Service, Stephen Fenoglio, spoke to the commission claiming the need for the facility due to long wait times at other facilities and current facilities inadequate to meet the current needs for disposal.
“There is a need,” Fenoglio said.
RRC Chairman Barry Smitherman made a motion to adopt the examiner’s recommendation to deny the permit.
The motion was seconded and approved unanimously by the commission.