POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE Polluter in the Primary? DRILLING DEMS If you tuned in to the gubernatorial debates, you heard Dan Morales making hay out of Tony Sanchez’s drilling for oil in Falcon State Park shortly after Sanchez left the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Sanchez isn’t the only Democratic primary candidate drilling on public park land. Barbara Canales-Black, who is running for the open Senate District 20 seat in South Texas, is co-owner of BNP Petroleum, which has recently begun drilling for natural gas on Padre Island National Seashore. CanalesBlack’s firm quietly obtained the permit in February from the National Park Service, and the drilling has since become a hot issue in South Texas and in the election. She has three primary opponents, including McAllen State Represen-tative Juan Hinojosa, and a runoff is possible. \(At press-time, the primary is still five scion of a well-connected political family and has been using her oil wealth to outspend Hinojosa three to one in the race. Her father is Tony Canales, Tony Sanchez’s private attorney. \(Canales, you may recall, was the one who hired the private dicks involved in the embarrassing investigationsome say smear campaignagainst former Secretary of To access the site, BNP had to bulldoze a road through pristine dunes. The site itself is covered by a 1.7 acre well-pad made of crushed rock. As obtrusive as this is on an almost completely undeveloped national seashore, this well may be just the beginning. The company’s permit applies to a 1300 square-kilometer drilling area on the island, and BNP also has plans to do slant drillingfor oil, not gasfrom the shore out into the bay and gulf. According to Erin Rogers of the Sierra Club, the company has bene Rep. Juan Hinojosa fited from the Bush administration’s “streamlined” National Park drilling rules, which do not require a separate environmental impact statement for each new well in a permitted drilling area. To add insult to injury, as recently as eighteen months ago the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had planned to designate as much as 7,000 acres in the area as critical habitat for the piping plover, a threatened bird. This designation would have made much of BNP’s proposed drilling area off limits. But BNP came back with their own habitat study, which predictably recommended protecting a much smaller portion of the seashore. Backed by Nueces County and local Chambers of Commerce, the company successfully lobbied FWS to reduce the protected area to 2,000 acres. A TANGLED WEB ,Add the Texas Railroad Commission to the list of regulatory agencies and investigators trying to “pierce the corporate veil” of Enron. On January 17, the general counsel for the commission, which regulates oil and gas production in Texas, sent a letter to Enron notifying the company of nine polluted sites and asking for their plans on cleaning them up. The sites are primarily in Nueces and Aransas Counties at old gas plants and dehydrator stations. In the missive, General Counsel Boyd Johnson related that the files at the commission indicate Enron acknowledged responsibility for most of the sites, and had even made some effort over the years to clean a few of them up, but that was about the extent of the cooperation. “The file review shows instances of Enron not reporting pollution events and tardiness in completing assessments and site remediation,” the regulator stated. “Further, there is evidence that Enron has failed to respond to prior staff requests for information and, therefore, our files are not complete:’ 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3/15/02
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