Texas regulators allow unpermitted oil well to pollute for 10 months, so far

Group urges regulators to reject, rescind permits for MDC Pickpocket 21 site

Oct 8 — Today Earthworks sent a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Executive Director Toby Baker, and the Texas Railroad Commissioners (TRC), urging them to reject and rescind MDC Pick Pocket 21’s permits after pollution was documented at the site four months after MDC received TCEQ notices of violation requiring cleanup. Earthworks initially documented pollution at the site in November of 2019, which according to TCEQ has been operating without a required permit for most if not all of that time.

The letter copies state legislators and political officials overseeing Texas oil and gas regulators. It chronicles Pick Pocket 21’s pollution, complaints to TCEQ about the pollution, TCEQ’s investigation identifying violations, and Earthworks’ subsequent site visits documenting that the pollution continues ten months later.

“These ongoing emissions [..] show a clear pattern of neglect by MDC. [They] also reveal TCEQ’s failure to do its job to ensure that operators control emissions. This behavior illustrates both MDC’s blatant disregard for the law and TCEQ’s complicity with it. [..] The only reliable way to [prevent this pollution and protect the public] is for TCEQ to reject and/or rescind Pick Pocket 21’s permits.” — excerpt from the letter authored by Earthworks’ certified optical gas imaging operator Sharon Wilson, who documented the pollution during eight site visits.

“Routine flaring and venting are some of the biggest environmental threats that face Texas, and there is no reason they cannot be eliminated. But that will require state regulators to do their job. Without the valuable investigations done by Earthworks’ Sharon Wilson we wouldn’t know this problem exists, or that TCEQ hasn’t fixed it. I salute Sharon and Earthworks for the work they do, and urge TCEQ to act to stop the pollution she has uncovered and TCEQ has confirmed.” — Texas State Representative Vikki Goodwin

MDC Pickpocket 21 pollution timeline: