Monday, March 05, 2007

Save the Laguna Madre

So there I was sitting in my sandbox when I felt the earth move. My house is on the beach side of the island but the seismic tests in the bay were rattling the pictures on my walls.

I have watched my sand sculptures get blown to smithereens, yet never have I felt such a sense of foreboding as I did that day in my sandbox.

Something very evil is headed toward our community -- the seismic activity in the Bay is just the beginning. Next will come drills and rigs -- and then the compromised sunset view will be the least of our worries. Of far more concern are the detrimental effects of gas drilling on the bay’s fragile ecosystem as well as the negative economic impact on the fishing captains, cruise operators and watersports outfits that depend on the bay for their livelihood. Indeed, the whole tourism industry that sustains all of us here on the Island and the whole lower Rio Grande Valley is at risk.

Look at Galveston Bay. Look at Lafayette and indeed the whole Louisiana coast. Can anyone who has seen what the drilling industry really looks like up close and personal think that it would not have a seriously detrimental effect on our local economy?

It is easy to think that it can’t happen here. That the GLO which makes a big show of protecting our beaches will be equally zealous in protecting the Bay. But they issued the permits that are allowing the current round of explosions. Where is the Nature Conservancy? The Audobon Society? Surely in this day and age there are safeguards in place that will prevent the rape of our bay and wetlands, right?

Well, don’t bet your future on it.

Tony Sanchez is a very powerful man with a lot of money and a lot of friends in high places. Our small community can do very little to stop him on our own -- we must educate and convince island friends and property owners throughout the Valley and indeed the state of Texas to rally to this cause; it is every bit as important as keeping garbage dumps out of our back yards and protecting Isla Blanca Park. Hell, I have heard that a bunch of windsurfers in Colorado are already up in arms about this; fighting this thing at the federal level may be our best hope.

I just snagged and will host it on my server for free. If a committee is formed, it is welcomed to use this domain to post calls to action; addresses of officials who need to be harassed, etc. etc.

For example, Sam Wells sent recently sent out this call to action:

My goal in writing is to generate some support for a regional plan for managing oil and gas concerns within our Coastal Natural Resource Area (CNRA.) We need help. We need the beaches renourished and it certainly doesn’t help to be blowing up the bayside and sinking oil & gas bore-holes everywhere. To correct a popular myth, money generated on local oil & gas leases does NOT fund local beach and bay projects. I have already taken it upon myself to write Senator Lucio regarding the possibility of legislation regarding:

1. Requiring GLO to require all major permits to be sent to local public hearings
2. Designation of our part of the Lower Laguna Madre as a special CNRA
3. Funding for implementation of a regional plan for the offshore in inshore CNRA

So maybe the rest of us ought to be writing Sen. Lucio letters of our own.... you think?
Let’s get something started, folks.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am the spokesperson for a group of college students that are trying to stop the drilling into Laguna Madre. We are working on a petition and will send it for the website, along with the information we gather.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Texas State Senator
Senate District 27--Senator Eddie Lucio
Capitol Office: CAP 3E.18
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0127
Capitol Address: P.O. Box 12068, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711
District Address: 7 North Park Plaza
Brownsville TX 78521
Phone: (956) 548-0227

10:24 PM  
Blogger sailaway202 said...

We are working on getting a website put up that sandyfeet will host here. I am also working on a comprehensive list of email addresses. It is important that we have a central location for information sharing. If anyone has already done this or is working on it, please post it here so that we can all work together.

11:41 AM  
Blogger LivinginSPI said...

I second bill richardson's suggestion of a petition on line opposing the drilling in the Laguna Madre as well as in the Gulf.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Nicki said...

The website for "save the laguna" will be hosted by sandyfeet. Thanks! It is being built by white ankle charters! and will be up in a day or two. More thanks!! It will be a little bare bones until we get other info posted. We will link a petition from the website (Bill we could use help with that), and also links to online letter forms that will be sent directly to various congressional and legislative leaders. Keep checking this site and we will post the web address soon. Bill, I will contact you for the email addresses. There is a tremendous amount of support out there; we just need to centralize our efforts. In the words of one very optimistic supporter, "I feel a mighty lion struggling to its feet." That mighty lion is about to begin a mighty roar that will be heard over the boats in the bay!

1:28 PM  
Blogger Lucinda said...

Thanks for the petition, Bill.
I have saved it to .pdf format and posted it here

(hope that link works!)

I guess we should all print up copies, start circulating them and return them..... where?

6:27 PM  
Blogger Nicki said...

Bill, and sandyfeet! thanks for the petition. Bill the only thing that I might suggest changing is the part about the citizens of SPI. We need the entire country to protest. We need to contact all of our winter friends who have gone north. ONe goal should be to have petitions turned in from 50 states. Folks, it's time that "WE the PEOPLE" rule as the founders of our great democracy intended for us to do. We were told that we don't have any rights because the Laguna Madre is State property. Excuse me! Who is the "state?" Does this mean that Rick Perry owns the Laguna? or that our state legislators own it? Think about it a little bit. If the law says that they do........hmmmm. What's going on here?
I'll post the website as soon as Pat gets it ready. Thanks.

10:33 PM  
Blogger mustlovespi said...

Here are some petition suggestions:

1. Sanchez Oil may not be the company that drills - they could sell the seismic to another company - "petition against ANY oil/gas/heilum exploration" vs against Sanchez

2. Petition to go to city? why do you need to address to any one entity - and if you do then include the local, state and federal government.

3. There is a website called - it is totally customizable - name/address/age/etc. Also people from all over the world can come and electronically access it.

So glad so many are talking!

8:41 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

A company called PGS Onshore is doing the seismic testing in the bay and in various land in Cameron County (Richard Moore, 'Oil Rumblings,' Valley Morning Star, February 4, 2007). PGS paid the Texas General Land Office about $300,000 to access almost 60,000 acres of land. The seismic survey is owned by PGS and resullts can be held or sold to the highest bidder, which may in fact be Sanchez Oil but that company has not been recorded in the GLO permit, to my knowledge.

The fact is that our state allowed the seismic permit to be issued in the first place.

The GLO has two key divisions with conflicting mandates. The coastal division issues permits such as for docks, marinas, boat ramps, and accesses. If you have ever dealt with them, every blade of eel grass must be protected of "mitigated" two to one. They are extremely protective, and have been known to require people to remove landfilling soil and replant the eel grass - every blade of it, times two.

The evil sister division at GLO is simply called "Energy." Their stated goal is to promote selling the state's energy resources, namely gas and oil. Since all submerged lands in Texas are managed by GLO, they have become a lucrative source of revenue. Revenue comes from (1) seismic permits, (2) drilling lease blocks, and (3) revenue on the produced oil and gas itself (the latter are taxes actually collected by the State Comproller). One of the main reasons why the Texas Budget has an extra 14 billion dollars is because of growth in the various oil and gas funds.

The way the GLO rules for the Energy Division is that local governments are simply informed when seismic testing or drilling is scheduled to occur. Port Isabel was informed because some drilling was being done in lands within their jurisdiction. However, SPI was not, since its boundaries stop at the Mean High Water mark.

The GLO has admitted a major lapse in communication with local governments, although what is being done to correct that is unknown. The Mayor and Rick Ridolfi were up in Austin recently and claim to have some more information on the issue.

To me, the problem is with the GLO and not the innocent seismic and drilling companies who want to make a buck. Where was the public hearing prior to considering the permit being approved? Was there a 30-day comment period issued in all the local papers? The answer to both is "no." They are not required to by law and are too lazy to go beyond exactly what the statute says ... and by the way, could get in trouble from Jerry Patterson (GLO Commissioner) and Governor Perry if they did.

So what I am saying is that if there was "Open Sunshine" on the issue the GLO would have considered downsizing the scope of the seismic testing or outright denied the permit application. The GLO and its enegy division are the real bad boys here. Yup, these are the same ones that allowed drilling in Falcon State Park, Baytown, and Matagorda. The humiliating thing about all this is that THOSE ARE STATE LANDS HELD IN THE TRUST OF THE CITIZENS OF TEXAS.

It's our bay, man.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Lucinda said...

Hey Sam, thanks for shedding some light on all this. We need to know what we are up against and you have obviously been doing some homework.. Bravo and merci mucho for sharing.

11:33 AM  
Blogger mustlovespi said...

From my information - Sanchez Oil is the underwriter of the seismic survey - they hired PGS. I spoke with Don Blanton at Blanton Associates a week or so ago and his company was responsible for helping Sanchez secure the seismic permits from the GLO and the Corps. Blanton claims to be an "enviromentalist" I found him to be an untruthful politico. The biologists out on the airboats and who are monitoring the survey are Blanton employees.

I wholeheartely agree that "they (Sanchez/PGS) are just trying to do business" and the GLO and Corps are the targets.

So many good ideas are circulating. But without some sort of organized effort I fear we will certainly see rigs in our bay - hopefully not right off our bay/beach shores like in Port Aransas.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Well there are lots of groups working on it, maybe with the hopes that the local governments would take actions (Cameron County, SPI, Port Isabel, etc.). There is simply too much money to be made off SPI as a tourist destination.

That might fail and a citizen action group would be needed. Unlike the local governments, which could lobby and negotiate, this group must be ready to file a lawsuit right away.

The only thing that helps is that obtaining drilling leases and permits takes about a year, and to our knowledge Sanchez Oil has not applied for any at this time.

The problem, as has been stated before, is that the GLO never issues notice regarding pending permits ... only their final approvals. That's why we need somebody to check the GLO drilling and lease files at least every week, up there in Austin.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Excellent, Bill, I believe Hill Associates has a major contract with EDC, is that right? /sam

6:05 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I agree with Sam, that neither the the Town nor any other government entity would be the best ones to lead this. With all due respect, they don't have the staff to take on such a project even if they were so inclined. I frankly would doubt the commitment to such an effort after listening to the City Manager report about what good boys Blanton and Assoc. are to have these wonderful environmental protections in place while they blast us at all hours.
We need someone with connections to national environmental groups.

I would hope Surfriders' would step up to the plate on this one. They have the experience - just having done Isla Blanca, plus the connections with national organizations.

The EDC Lobbyist (Clint Smith from Hillco)works primarily on beach renourishment efforts at the State level. We need to focus our efforts at the Federal level. Our local guys don't have enough clout and Sanchez has won before at the State level. You know he has major political connections and influence. We have to get above that. Don't forget there will be Federal agencies involved also - EPA, Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife (part of Dept. of Interior). Their HQ do not care about even Gov. Perry. They are too busy answering to their Committee Chairs and powerful Congress people on Capitol Hill.

The Mayor and Rick Ridolfi are starting to meet with the big boys, beginning with GLO, Jerry Patterson, but know they must take the fight to the Federal level. Rick has the right idea that the socio-economic impact in an already economically depressed area could get someone's attention.

Let's bolster their efforts with our own focused at that level. Cameron County and other entities should include themselves in this effort, but all focused at the Federal level. Let the politicians do the protocol and meet with the "chain of command", but the grass roots opposition should target higher levels from the very beginning.

I would think we would want to be working with an environmental attorney or one who will hire an environmental specialist to work with them. The Town can't be involved in that.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Sometime the week of March 26 we'd like to have a big meeting of all these folks concerned about the oil & gas operations in the bay. I have already gotten things in motion. With Spring Break and all it has been difficult to get things started. Everybody is invited. It might be at Louie's or Padre Brewing, haven't made those calls just yet. Any ideas about what is best? /Sam

10:29 PM  
Blogger Nicki said...

Sam, Thank You!! Anytime anyplace I will be there.
Contacting the national environmental organizations is also a great idea. I sent email to Earthjustice, Environmental Defense, Nature Conservancy and Greenpeace. So far I have heard only from Nature Conservancy who said this:

"We are aware of the seismic testing being conducted in the Laguna Madre. It's an issue we have had to deal with all over Texas with regard to our nature preserves and other places of conservation significance.

In Texas, the rights of mineral owners to exercise the pursuit of oil and gas extraction takes precedence over the rights of anyone who owns the surface of the land. Experts tell us that any legal battles to deprive the mineral owners of those rights would most likely prove both costly and unsuccessful.

We have found that some exploration companies are mindful of concerns about environmental harm from both landowners and the public, and are willing to manage their exploration and extraction activities to minimize environmental harm beyond what the law already calls for. Your best bet might be to organize local people and local governments to put pressure on the exploration/extraction companies to minimize negative impacts to wildlife and habitat. This is not typically a role appropriate to The Nature Conservancy, but you could try contacting the state and local Sierra Club, which has been active in this arena before.

Best of luck!

Niki McDaniel
The Nature Conservancy"

Addresses of others to contact:

Environmental Defense:
Texas office:

Greenpeace built a website for Padre Island National Seashore to help stop the drilling on North Padre.
Maybe they would help.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Excellent! I am about to call Louie's and some other local establishments to see if they have a low/no cost meeting room, maybe a cash bar. The unknown question is, how much room do we need? 25, 50, 100, more? Would 7:30 at night be good? Weekday or weekend? Sheesh, I'll scope it out and report back on the alternatives. /sam

11:58 AM  
Blogger Nicki said...

Another group that might be helpful is "We the People." This is a group that is primarily seeking to educate the American people about rights that have been overlooked.

Their goal is:

"Our overall purpose is to expose, confront and correct governments operating outside their written, lawful authority and to institutionalize a nationwide program of civic vigilance to prevent future abuses and ensure the continuance of Liberty for our posterity."

Also, there was a good article in Sunday's "Valley Morning Star" about the avoidance of "Sunshine Laws," those laws that allow citizens free and easy access to government documents (including the permitting process). The article explained that even though the law says that information should be accessible to the public, in most cases the government entities involved make the process so difficult that most of us give up. This process is illegal, but there are very few challenges to it.
We don't want this to happen to us.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

Please let me know if a 6:30 meeting will work on the following dates, take your pick:

Wednesday March 28
Friday March 30
Saturday March 31


9:21 PM  
Blogger Nicki said...

We have an email address for the group effort, and the website will be up this afternoon. Bill please send the email list that you have. I will get an address book set up and we can go from there.

Sam, pick a date/time/place. We will be there.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Virginia Cazort, Ph.D. said...

My husband and I are horrified at the racket we hear on the Laguna Madre stemming from the gas/oil greed. We have known Padre Island for over fifty years and cannot believe this prospecting for gas and oil is happening with such damage to the dolphins' sonar, interference with Coast Guard operations and noise contamination of the environment. We would like to volunteer to do anything we are asked to do to save this beautiful place. We are in the area until May 1.
Virginia Cazort, Ph.D.
Herbert Brown
East Calais, Vermont

8:44 PM  

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