“Surface right owners are a mere nuisance and are expendable.” .
Telling personal stories
The oil and gas boom has been underway for a number of years in many locations across the country, and there are now a lot of stories about individuals and families whose lives have been personally affected. I’m going to start a regular series of those stories on this blog to help you envision what could happen if drilling expands along the Beartooth Front. For now, look for these about once a week.
Today’s story comes from the booklet Shalefield Stories: Personal and Collected Testimonies, published last month by Steel Valley Printers of Pennsylvania.
Tim and Christine Ruggiero
Aruba Petroleum began drilling on a property adjacent to Tim and Christine Ruggiero’s home in Wise County, Texas in August 2009. On September 16, Aruba began drilling two wells on the Ruggiero property.
Since that time, they have experienced several spills, a possible methane seep where bubbles ignite, constant emissions from various stages of the extraction process and noise pollution. They have had several Texas Commission Environmental Quality (TCEQ) air studies as well as private testings that show toxins exceed standards, including benzene at 120 ppb.
The Ruggiero’s ten-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with asthma. Christine has experienced rashes, nausea and memory loss. Tim has loss of sensation in his extremities. Their home and 10-acre horse property have been devalued from $257,330 to $75,240. (There’s a link to the appraisal at the bottom of this post. It’s worth reading in detail if you want to understand how drilling can devalue your property.) Because they and their neighbor do not own the mineral rights under their land, Aruba was able to drill next to their neighbor’s home and under the Ruggiero’s property, where they keep their horses, without consent or notice. In fact, the day they started
drilling the company cut down their fence where the horses were grazing. They were not told ahead of time that the company planned to drill there. Although Aruba put up a sound barrier, it is not long enough to cover the length of the house, so it does not help with the noise. They have a clear view of the rig and wastewater pit.
On the afternoon of October 29th 2009, Christine reports that while she was in the kitchen, she noticed a black smoky liquid shooting acrossthe pit onto the ground and into the neighbor’s trees. There was not an Aruba employee in sight, so Christine called the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC), and filed a complaint. Aruba only cleaned up the spill after the TRC arrived. Samples of the ground
were not taken until five days after the spill occurred, and Aruba had watered the area down for five days.
Christine was told that Aruba would conduct the tests and report the findings to the TRC. The TRC found problems with the pit that needed to be corrected. The TRC admitted that the areas should be tested for carcinogens, benzenes and hydrocarbons.
As Christine states, “Don’t self-report the spill and you don’t have to self-report what was in the spill, clean it up, and fill out all that paperwork. They [Aruba] exist for profit and profit only. Surface right owners are a mere nuisance and are expendable.”