Best Salsa Club

Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013
Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Music: Chris Pérez never saw it coming. “All I ever wanted to do was play guitar,” he told the Current. “I never thought I’d be the subject of an interview... By Enrique Lopetegui 8/28/2013
Beaches Be Trippin\': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Arts & Culture: Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used... By Callie Enlow 7/10/2013
Chris Perez, husband of slain Tejana icon Selena, tells of romance, suffering

Chris Perez, husband of slain Tejana icon Selena, tells of romance, suffering

Arts & Culture: In one of the final chapters of his book To Selena, With Love (out March 6), Selena's widower Chris Perez mentions that Abraham Quintanilla, his former father-in-law, once... By Enrique Lopetegui 3/7/2012
A Look Back at SA\'s Homebrew History

A Look Back at SA's Homebrew History

The Beer Issue: Homebrewing is a foundational American virtue. Not just Sam Adams smiling back from the bottle that bears his name—virtually all the... By Lance Higdon 10/15/2014

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email


Lone Star Green: Policing Eagle Ford

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Hector Zertuche of Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department

Hector Zertuche’s first environmental crime occurred around 2009 when he discovered a truckload of oilfield drilling muds dumped on the banks of the Nueces River outside Sandia, Tex. “We matched the tracks to a nearby resident,” the Jim Wells County Sheriff’s Deputy told me recently. “But we messed up. We cited him for illegal dumping.”

While the abatement officer was well-versed in handling illegal trash pits and pitched tires, the laws regarding petroleum waste were unfamiliar territory. It was hardly his fault. Although police and sheriff’s deputies are tasked with enforcing them, Texas environmental laws are typically not taught by police academies in the state.

Zertuche promised himself he wouldn’t make the same mistake again and sought out training just as the Eagle Ford shale play began ushering in an explosion of oil and gas activity across South Texas. Soon streams of trucks were arriving in Jim Wells County to dump their oily sludge into one of a handful of nearby waste pits. Zertuche was ready with a working knowledge of Chapter 29 of the Texas Water Code, otherwise known as the Oil and Gas Waste Haulers Act.

“I’d just follow these open-topped trailers until they spilled,” he said. “Then the company would have two things to worry about: their ticket and getting my car washed.”

For a while, Zertuche says he was citing up to 10 trucks per day for a variety of water-code violations. “The first five trucks we stopped were leaking. We had spills all over the highways. Big spills.”

When waste haulers began diverting their loads to a string of commercial underground injection wells opening in nearby Frio County, they found officers there just as ignorant as Zertuche had been four years earlier. That changed last month when Zertuche trained many of those deputies, who issued several citations right off the bat. He’s held similar trainings in La Salle and McMullen counties.

While federal and state regulators are tasked with administrative oversight of oil and gas companies and assessing civil penalties, criminal prosecution usually falls to local law enforcement. Too bad they’re almost never trained to handle it.

“We’ve had pretty good laws on the books now for 20 or 30 years to take care of water and air and land, but when we put a guy through the police academy, we just don’t train him,” said John Ockels, the man who taught Zertuche about enforcing the Texas Water Code. “We don’t train the attorneys and we don’t train the city managers, either.”

A former environmental coordinator for the Texoma Council of Governments, Ockels leads the Texas Illegal Dumping Resource Center, training law enforcement officers, city officials and oilfield operators at workshops across the state.

Of course, not everyone spends their days considering how toxic dumping on one side of a fence will inevitably find the other side and even reach into the air and down into the groundwater. For these officers and officials, Zertuche and Ockels simply offer a pragmatic way to nab more crooks through Texas’ often-ignored environmental laws.

Recently in News
We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus