Saturday, November 01, 2014

Thirty Days Until Frac Sand Appeal

The City of San Angelo Zoning Board of Appeals will entertain the approval of a frac sand offloading/transfer facility in downtown San Angelo.  Lee Pfluger received approval for the facility under the site's existing zoning classification of light manufacturing.  Pfluger spoke before City Council on October 21 on his planned facility.

Mr.Pfluger referenced the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) several times in his presentation.

"There's a lot of dust concerns and this is a true concern.  The dust concerns are real. It's controlled by the TCEQ.  The frac sand itself,  two different deals.  A lot of people talk about Barnhart.  Barnhart's got a water problem.  TCEQ says you've got to water the caliche.  They don't have any water in Barnhart and they're not watering the caliche.  But it makes a mess and I agree with that.  That's a difference in operation."
Did Mr. Pfluger statements reveal that TCEQ requirements are optional if the town has no water? There's been talk in the past of Barnhart buying water from San Angelo.

Lee Pfluger is a respected businessman and likely reads the Wall Street JournalWSJ ran a story on this very subject in April of last year.  It stated:

Traffic on the railroad, which had been on the verge of extinction several times in the past century, has tripled in the past five years, to more than 10,000 rail cars a year, and is on pace to double in 2013. That is because the millions of pounds of fracking sand coming into this region—and a fairly large portion of the crude oil exiting it—are now riding its rails. 

Barnhart "is the center of our petroleum universe," said Elizabeth Grindstaff, a vice president of sales at Texas Pacifico Transportation Ltd., which operates the rail line. "My bosses call it the belly button." 

The town, located on the eastern edge of the Permian oil field, is now chock-a-block with rail cars. Dozens of train hoppers were parked on new sidings off Highway 67 one recent day as their cargo of sand was being unloaded onto trucks for delivery to new oil wells
The article cited the very concerns expressed by San Angelo citizens in regard to the proposed facility.

When trains stopped to unload sand in Big Lake, they blocked emergency services from reaching houses south of downtown until a new rail siding could be built. When the wind blows from the south, unloading the tiny pebbles used in fracking can create small sandstorms that reach the few houses nearby.
The Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on December 1 should be interesting given the power players involved.  Who will show up from Texas Pacifico to address questions about rail traffic as City Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff would not at City Council?  Will Lee Pfluger finally answer the retired railroad worker's questions on shipment methods, projected turnaround time and the prospect of blocking street traffic for long periods of time?

Another level of intrigue is the neighborhood composition of the group appealing Pfluger's frac sand facility.  Most live in Santa Rita, the neighborhood served by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff, the very railroad Vice President of Sales who collaborated with Lee Pfluger on his planned operation.  While Grindstaff appears to be a solid proponent, her predecessor Winkie Wardlaw leads the opposition charge.  Stay tuned.

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