West Texas Oil Man Under Fire from Pecos County Residents

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

FORT STOCKTON-- Clayton Williams wants to draw water from existing wells in Pecos County and ship it to Midland.  On Tuesday, during a public meeting of the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District, that plan drew some fierce opposition from local residents.

Decades ago, several water supplies fed an above ground watering hole that many people enjoyed for swimming during the summer.  In the 1950s, Clayton Williams and Fort Stockton Holdings were granted permits to drill water wells in the area, drying up those water supplies and forcing the creation of what is now the Fort Stockton city swimming pool.

People who spoke at Tuesday morning's meeting are afraid if Williams is allowed to drill again, history might repeat itself.

"I've been here in the 50's when a few irrigation wells in the Leon-Belding area caused the Comanche Springs to stop flowing and it stressed the water supply for the city of Fort Stockton," one resident said.

"Walter's rule says without water, you're out of everything, thank you," another person said.

Whether they had a personal, vested interest or were representing a larger group, a handful of Pecos County area residents made it clear, they don't want Clayton Williams touching their water.

Fort Stockton Mayor Ruben Falcon has been fighting this battle for over a year, "We're trying to tell people this is a bigger issue than it was being made out to be."

Paul Latham is the Vice President of Clayton Williams company, Fort Stockton Holdings.

He says, he understands how people feel right now but hopes they'll change their minds, once they get all the facts,  "There's been a lot of misinformation about our application.  We're not going to be producing any more water than we produce today.  We're not going to drill any more wells than we have today."

Water studies are being conducted to access the effect the excessive drilling will have on the area water supply.

While they welcome the results, Fort Stockton City Councilman Arthur Orona says you can already see some of those effects, "From my opinion, I can say, come look at the springs, or lack of and you'll have your studies.  The waters don't flow seldomly, 3 months out of the year or less, depending on the pumping they do at Williams farm."

Not everyone at the meeting was against the proposal.  Some were even willing to hold off on forming an opinion until the water studies are complete.  The insecurity of not knowing what the future holds for their water supply has left many with a bad taste in their mouth.

One resident summed it up like this, "If you're thirsty, why would you go to the desert to get a drink?"