Railroad Commission fines company for not cleaning up oil, wastewater spills

The Railroad Commission of Texas fined a Dallas-based oil and gas company more than $100,000 on Tuesday after inspectors found that several spills of oil and toxic water had not been cleaned up after nearly two years.

Inspectors for the commission, which regulates oil and gas in Texas, found several spills during an inspection of Chestnut Exploration and Production’s Willacy County property in 2015 and 2016. Two spills, one of 10 barrels of oil and another of 285 barrels of wastewater, were discovered in January 2016 and were not reported to the commission, as required by state regulations.

Willacy County is in South Texas. Chestnut’s lease, known as the Sauz Ranch Mulatos pasture property, is in the same area as the El Sauz Ranch, a game hunting ranch.

The company had also not renewed its license to operate in Texas, but was continuing to operate, according to commission documents.

In a letter to the commission sent in mid February, Chestnut claimed it lost an employee as a result of the oil downturn and fell behind on its paperwork. Chesnut also said it hired a company to clean up the 2015 spills and that the property no longer posed any environmental hazards.

But another inspection report, filed just days before Chestnut sent the letter, found that no clean up had been done on the site.

Mark Plummer, Chestnut’s CEO, said that the spills had been cleaned up and added that he didn’t understand the commission’s claim that the property remained polluted.

“A couple of things fell through the cracks,” he said on Wednesday. “We’ll correct them and go on.”