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Eagle Ford Shale counties not cashing in on royalties

Since the Eagle Ford Shale began booming 6 years ago, the state has collected billions of dollars in royalties.

Since the Eagle Ford Shale began booming 6 years ago, the state has collected billions of dollars in royalties.

The problems is, Austin is collecting money from mineral rights on property which is deeded to several counties. Specifically Austin is collecting on mineral rights under county road right of ways.

But the state is having the counties maintain the roads, while not giving any of them a penny of the royalty money to help.

DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler said the only money DeWitt County has received is from permit fees & overweight truck fees directly related to the oil & gas industry. That amount, a paltry $125,000 last year. Fowler said that's only enough money for the yearly maintenance of one mile of county road.

In neighboring Karnes county it doesn't appear to be much better.

County Judge Richard Butler said they feel oil & gas revenue pulled from under county roads should be returned to those counties to help with road maintenance.

He said since 2011 thru April of 2014, the state has taken in more than 7.5 million dollars from royalties under Karnes county roads.

Over the past 3 and a half years the state has realized more than 28 million dollars in revenue from royalty & bonus payments for oil and gas under county roads. The three largest producing counties DeWitt, Karnes and Gonzales account for more than $16 million of that amount.

Judge Fowler said when he took office in 2011 that the county's road maintenance budget was just $1.7 million. This year he said that budget has swollen to more than $16 million, and they're not getting one penny more help from the state. He is also working on a plan to try to change things.

Fowler said several counties have banned together, and more will likely join a coalition which is lobbying lawmakers in Austin to override that 1960 opinion. They are trying to get lawmakers to pass a bill which would allow counties to retain mineral rights, just like private landowners or company held rights.

On average, most trucks in the industry weigh more than 80,000 pounds. Some can weigh as much as 150,000 pounds. An Eagle Ford Task Force report shows for each well drilled roughly 1,200 truck loads of material are needed.

Plus another 350 trucks are needed for maintenance. Most county roads were built to handle trucks of approximately 50,000 pounds.

The damage is easily seen, and more easily felt if you drive down one of these roads. DeWitt County has more than 300 miles of roads to maintain. Right now they are spending roughly $125,000 per mile, per year on that maintenance. Fowler said to build the roads to standards to maintain the load they're carrying, the county would need to spend roughly $350,000 per mile, per year.

The judges are also counting on the public to put pressure on Austin to make the change. A committee chairman has already agreed to hold a public hearing on the matter this September.

Fowler said he is hoping for a big public turnout. He also said the industry itself is behind the counties because they realize their trucks, as well as the trucks of contractors & suppliers, are being torn up along with the roads.

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