Let's get this straight: currently, 25% of the country is under severe, extreme or exceptional drought, with 18% of normal snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Clearly, it's time to be conserving and protecting precious water resources in this country. Which is why stories like this one are so jarring.
Deputy Sheriff Hector Zertuche parked his pickup across the road from a gas and oil waste dump and watched through binoculars as a container truck unloaded a mountain of black sludge.
Zertuche, the environmental crimes officer for Jim Wells County, is the law here when it comes to oil and gas waste. The job has fallen to him, he said, because the state's environmental agencies don't effectively police the disposal of the industry's waste. It typically contains benzene and other chemicals found in hydraulic fracturing, along with heavy metals and other contaminants from deep within the earth.
Zertuche draws his authority from the Texas Oil and Gas Waste Haulers Act, which is part of the state Water Code and is rooted in laws enacted almost a century ago during an earlier oil boom. It allows him to issue citations for everything from spilling waste along highways to not having the proper disposal permits.
So, while this is great work by Deputy Sheriff Zertuche, the question is simple: why is the job of policing the dumping of toxic materials from oil and gas drilling into our drinking water supplies being left to the initiative of one man? Where are the state authorities? Given that in Texas, 63% of the state is currently experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions, shouldn't it be a top priority for the state to protect precious water supplies from being contaminated by the oil and gas industries? If that's not the case, why isn't it?