By Geena Martinez
GARDENDALE - People living in one West Texas community are fighting back against an oil company.
Gardendale sits just inside Ector County and they've been picked as the next spot by Berry Petroleum to start drilling.
Landowners aren't happy about it and now they're taking steps to take control of the situation.
"There's stakes all over now," landowner Delia Arthur said.
"We are not opposed to drilling, we don't want to incorporate," Dan Boggs, of the Gardendale Landowners Association, said. "But we feel like we have no other choice right now."
The stakes are high in Gardendale because of the stakes coming out of the ground.
"They haven't given me any official documents whatsoever," Arthur said. "They're just telling me that they can come in here and do this."
Arthur has lived in the small community of Gardendale for 15 years and she's just one of many residents who have found themselves fighting for land they already own.
The company, Berry Petroleum, started staking land for drilling late last year.
Legally, the company has the right to lease minerals underneath Gardendale.
"For the next 15 or 20 years, there's going to be a pump jack on these people's property," Boggs said. "And according to Texas state law, they're not required to offer them a penny for it."
That's because Gardendale is considered a rural community, meaning there are no restrictions for drilling in place because there's no form of local government.
And there's more. Property owners own surface rights and that includes water. Water that Berry Petroleum can use for drilling.
"It's going to impact a very fragile water table significantly," Boggs said. "They're getting ready to ration water in Midland, what do you think it's going to do to us?"
And those aren't the only concerns residents have.
"Oil spills that could possibly happen from the tanks, truck traffic coming and going to pick up the oil, the caliche dust for one thing is just awful," Arthur said.
"With the force of law, we could challenge them and have them do the things they do in such a way that it fits into our community better," Boggs said.
The company has offered landowners $10,000 for using their land, but signing that agreement waives any liability from the company in the future.
Landowners said it's not right and they'll do whatever it takes to make sure their property and their way of life is protected.
"Really not a happy camper," Arthur said. "I think someone needs to get our state legislators to do something about surface rights, owners, because this is not fair whatsoever."
The Landowners Association said their next step is starting a petition and getting enough signatures so the issue of incorporating into a city can be put on a ballot and left up to voters.
"It's really up to the community," Boggs said "If we don't do anything, they are going to."