Posted on August 14, 2012 at 5:46 PM
Thursday, Aug 16 at 9:37 AM
KARNES CITY, TEXAS -- Many counties within the Eagle Ford Shale play receive “donations” from oil companies or have “gentleman agreements” to provide materials for road repair.
But officials in several South Texas counties estimate it will take hundreds of millions of dollars to fix the roads and bridges that are worn down, ground up, and spit out by 18-wheels of constant use from oil and gas trucks.
“We just want to get up and down our roads without eating all the dust that’s been created,” said Shanna Hall, a 23-year resident of Karnes City, Texas. Her surrounding county is home to more than 400 miles of caliche and gravel roads.
“You’ve got residents who live out here and school buses. This is what they drive through,” said Rick Jalufka of the county’s road maintenance crew.
Those residents, said Jalufka, are blinded by clouds of caliche dust that make driving down the street dangerous. Jaluka and his partner, Robert Busselman, said they can’t keep up with the constant calls for road repairs from rural residents.
“It’s just a never-ending battle as far as trying to keep up with them. You can’t fix them,” said Busselman.
Karnes County commissioners were hopeful that a slew of county road use agreements, fees and contracts with outfitters would help create cash to rebuild the roads that are failing.
But Karnes County Judge Barbara Shaw tells KENS-5 those agreements could open the county up to potential lawsuits.
In a letter to various county officials throughout South Texas, Rob Looney with the Texas Oil & Gas Association said, “The law does not authorize a county to charge a fee or to require owners or operators of vehicles to enter into road use agreements not associated with the county permitting process.”
Shaw said, “Some operators donate money and do voluntary donations. Other operators don’t. We really have no authority to enforce anything.”
So, county officials are banding together to talk with Texas lawmakers.
The issue is getting some of that permit money that the Texas Highway Commission takes in from truck operators. That money is currently filling the state’s coffers. And Shaw said only a tiny percentage trickles back to the counties for road and bridge repair.
“It’s not about who’s going to win, it’s about playing fair. That’s all we want. We want the best," he said.
Shaw admits the fight in Austin may be as rough as the roads they’ll take to get there.