Cecile Carson's property has an aura of rural homeyness. The neat yard, happy dogs, and blooming flowers along her fence rails suggest a love of place.
She's a high school art teacher who picked a little swath of Wise County near the small town of Decatur, about 35 miles north of Fort Worth, to settle down. She lived in a travel trailer for the first three years while she designed and built her home. The place is well thought out—its colors blend with the surrounding landscape of green, rolling hills.
It took Carson 10 years to get to this point. But it took the Railroad Commission of Texas about 45 seconds to put it all in jeopardy. On April 11, at an administrative hearing in Austin, it took less than a minute for a public reading of Carson's and her neighbor's protests against the placement of an oilfield waste injection well just a few hundred feet from their property.
Then the three commissioners immediately voted "denied" without discussion...
...Part of the commission's enforcement problem is a lack of effective penalties. After the commission field staff goes through an elaborate protocol of voluntary compliance with an offending operator, the inspector must dot every "i" and cross every "t" in order to file a legal enforcement package that will, at most, result in a fine of between $500 and $3,500.