After appearing to be on a collision course over who controls drilling near Joe Pool Lake’s dam, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Railroad Commission will meet next month to discuss a ban on hydraulic fracturing near the reservoir’s embankments.
Fort Worth District Commander Col. Calvin C Hudson II is scheduled to meet May 13 with Texas Railroad Commission Executive Director Kimberly Corley at the corps’ downtown Fort Worth offices after Corley questioned the corps’ actions, officials said.
“We’re going to work with the railroad commission to come up with a viable solution,” Hudson told the media last month. “It is not our intent to exert any authority right now. We plan to work with all of the entities to come up with viable solutions” for drilling near the dam.
Ramona Nye, a railroad commission spokeswoman, said staff from the agency’s oil and gas division will accompany Corley to Fort Worth.
Last month, the corps announced it was expanding the exclusion zone where drilling is banned from 3,000 feet to 4,000 feet to protect its structural integrity. It also said it was seeking to limit wastewater injection wells within 5 miles of the dam because of the effects of “induced seismicity,” or earthquakes triggered by human activities.
We’re going to work with the railroad commission to come up with a viable solution.
Col. Calvin C Hudson II, Fort Worth district commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The corps said the original exclusion area did not meet the dam’s minimum tolerable risk guidelines and posed a risk to the structure, the lake and the public. While it’s willing to work with cities, the state and energy companies, the corps also said that as a last resort it would go to court to protect the dam.
Corps officials emphasized that, while they had not released the study’s results to the commission, they were aware it was being done.
The new restrictions immediately came under fire by state officials as federal government overreach. In her letter to the corps, Corley made it clear that her agency, not the corps, has control over drilling in Texas.
“We would like to understand how USACE made these decisions and how it intends to implement its actions,” Corley wrote. “In discharging its responsibilities, the Railroad Commission’s highest priority is protection of public safety and our natural resources.”
To downplay any conflict, Brigadier General David C. Hill, commander of the corps southwest division, said the two agencies are not on a collision course but a “collaboration course.”
“We certainly recognize where we have authorities to control within our current portfolio and where we don’t. It will not extend beyond that,” Hill said at last month’s press conference.