By Sandra Cason - The Marshall News Messenger - Friday, February 08, 2008
It's all about water, said Dale Henry, Democratic candidate for Texas Railroad Commission.
"My campaign is important for one reason," Henry said, "and that is because the state of Texas is running out of water. It is an abused natural resource and the Railroad Commission has done nothing about it for the past 106 years."
If he is elected in this, his third bid for the seat, Henry said he will be the first commissioner with hands-on experience in oil and gas exploration, the industry for which the commission provides oversight.
Henry faces Art Hall and Mark Thompson in the March 4 Democratic Primary. If he is the party nominee, Henry will face Republican incumbent Michael Williams in the November general election.
A resident of Lampasas, 50 miles west of Austin, and a graduate of University of Texas, Henry is a retired employee of Schlumber J company, having worked in the oil fields of Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.
"I spent a number of years in research and development and I hold several fracturing patents," Henry said.
"I've been out there and seen it all," he added.
While many people may not stop to think about it that way, Henry pointed out that oil and gas drilling operations have a tremendous impact on ground water.
"Oil and gas activity inherently produces a lot of water," Henry said. "Water is what is used to bring it to the surface, but on its way, the water accumulates contaminated materials."
A common disposal method for the liquid is "to put it back in the ground."
Henry said he learned of a DeBerry preacher whose church hasn't had water in a number of years. "One well was drilled too close to his church and all the wells in the area are contaminated with salt water. You can drill a hundred good ones, but it takes just one bad well to create a whole bunch of problems," Henry said.
Good drilling practices are particularly important at this point in time because so many production companies are now using a horizontal approach.
"There's an area called the Barnett Shale," Henry said. "It is a very thick layer of stone and breaking through it has never made the effort worthwhile until horizontal drilling. That's the key."
In this method, the pipeline goes down for a distance, "turns a corner," and goes under the stone, Henry explained.
This type of drilling uses "millions of gallons of water per day. Sometimes it will be as much as 275,000 gallons," Henry added.
With such large quantities to be disposed of, Henry said it is more important than ever that the Railroad Commission check all drilling permit applications thoroughly, a practice he claims is not currently followed.
"This rubber-stamping has to stop," he said.
Use of environmentally safe drilling practices are especially important to this area because of Caddo Lake, Henry said.
"I've done hands-on work for the Railroad Commission in Caddo — the plugging of abandoned wells. Ninety percent of those I plugged had not be plugged by Railroad Commission rules and regulations the first time around.
"I will make protecting our water a priority for the Texas Railroad Commission," Henry said in a promotional brochure.
"In dry West Texas, the ranchers have to work hard at salvaging water to grow grass with which to feed cattle and produce beef. At the ranch my wife and I have operated for years, we cut the number of production acres needed per cow and calf from 25 acres to 2.5 acres by getting our water to the right place.
"Water's my passion. I know how to do it," Henry said.
"I'm not a politician and I shouldn't have to be involved in this, but the oil and gas companies are polluting our water, soil, and air, and the Railroad Commission simply turns its back and lets it happen.
"Instead of regulating these industries, the three commissioners are raking in campaign contributions from their executives and political action committees and are burying their heads in the sand.
"It's time for change," Henry said. "I need to bring the knowledge I have back to the people, if they'd like me to share it.
"I can do the job. I want the job.
"The petroleum industry is a great benefit to our state's economy, but that should not come at the expense of our environment or our fresh water supply," he said.
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