In a statement to The Mirror, Crittenden said he met with the officials at the commission's Austin office Feb. 3 "to discuss several oil wells that he had discovered were abandoned and unplugged" on the Upshur County-owned property in Baylor and Throckmorton County. Crittenden recently visited the property after citizen Glenn Leach raised questions about the leasing of it.
The commissioner noted the Railroad Commission regulates "environmental and safety aspects of all oil and gas production, including well plugging. The open and unplugged oil wells pose a risk of contaminating surface water or ground water if not properly closed or plugged," as well as a risk of a child or livestock stepping into them and being injured.
Crittenden, who has four opponents so far in the Republican primary in his bid for reelection, said he had no comment on what he plans to do about the problem. The County Commissioners Court next meets Wednesday.
Crittenden said Railroad Commission records show the most recently-drilled oil well on the property was put into operation Jan. 20, 2011, and "the operator of the well is required by law to give notice to the surface owner, and to file a completion report with the Railroad Commission. It appears that the operator of the well has failed to give the required notice to Upshur County Commissioners Court regarding the proposed oil well."
The operator "has also failed to file a completion report on the well with the Railroad Commission," Crittenden alleged.
In addition, "another location on the Upshur County school land contains a well site prepared in the past few years with a large pit excavated to hold drilling fluid. The Railroad Commission records show that a permit was issued for this site, but no further reports were filed on this site," he added.
"The Texas Constitution has granted approximately 17,000 acres of land located in Baylor and Throckmorton Counties as a trust for the benefit of the public schools in Upshur County. (Revenue from the property is divided annually among the nine school districts lying wholly or partly in Upshur County.) Commissioners Court of Upshur County is the trustee of this property and is responsible for the proceeds and revenues from this property. Upshur County as owner and trustee of this land should be receiving payment for the surface use and damages from the oil and gas activities on the property. Several citizens have voiced concerns about the surface lease of the school land. Questions have also been raised about recent oil and gas leases on the property."
After saying it appeared the county wasn't receiving its due proceeds, Crittenden said he had visited the property "to investigate the oil and gas wells" on it and "to assess the surface improvement made by Spade Ranch" there.
Crittenden, who shared photos he took of the property with the Commissioners Court at its most recent meeting Jan. 31, noted Friday that Spade Ranch's contract with the county provides the ranch spend at least $3 annually per acre in improvements.