Goliad County sued Uranium Energy Corp. in March 2008 on allegations of groundwater contamination. A judge dismissed the case in federal court just weeks ago, stating the case belongs in a state court. Now, commissioners debate whether they should re-file its case there.
Pro: County must sue again to protect waterCharlie Faupel wants Goliad County to re-file its lawsuit against Uranium Energy Corp. in state court.
"Too many cities and counties sell out for industry to gain tax base and money while leaving the environment out to dry," the rancher, who lives downstream from the proposed uranium mine, said. "I don't deny we need power. I think we should use technology in place now without having to use these dangerous uranium plants."
Goliad County claims Uranium Energy Corp. contaminated the county's water supply when it didn't cap dozens of exploratory drill holes. The county wants to sue to protect its water, prevent future contamination and recoup some of its hefty legal fees.
Goliad County Commissioner Jim Krenek wants to take the fight to court again.
"Since they have quit messing around over there, the water has cleared up some," Krenek said. "If they don't disturb the aquifer with bore holes, it settles down. What do we do, just roll over and play dead? Let them do what they want? Why do we want to risk them coming in and ruining our groundwater?
If a uranium mining company wanted to operate on your land, Krenek asks, would you feel safe drinking your well water?
"Groundwater is everything to Goliad. It's our livelihood. I don't like spending county tax dollars, but I feel like we have to fight the company. If we don't, who will?"
"My livelihood, ranch and ability to live healthy in an area where my family's lived for generations is worth it," Faupel said. "I think that right now it looks like an awful big mountain, but this mountain may be a mole hill if the uranium company destroys all that land out there."
Con: Taxpayer money wasted on losing battleGentry Powell said Goliad County is unwise to throw hundreds of thousands of tax dollars at a losing fight.
Individual landowners and not county officials signed exploratory mining leases with Uranium Energy Corp.
"Why would the county intervene on the behalf of private landowners?" Powell said. "If I had a fight with an oil company over damaging my land or water, could I ask the county to pay thousands of dollars for my legal fees?"
Goliad County should not file suit against the company in state court because it can't win, it can't afford to lose and because a federal judge already tossed its case once.
Jerry Rodriguez, a Goliad County commissioner, said the county should object to uranium mining by following state protocol - and not by trying to win landmark environmental cases.
"The federal judge ruled there wasn't a case there. Instead of trying to fight with these people anymore, the county should work with UEC," Rodriguez said. "Ultimately, they're going to get the permit. The way we're going, we're going to lose and we won't have a say-so."
The Texas Railroad Commission has deemed the uranium company did not contaminate well water.
"What more proof do the other stubborn commissioners need?" Rodriguez asked.
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars incurred in legal fees, the county now faces the potential of paying the uranium company's legal tab. Uranium Energy Corp. just filed paperwork demanding $200,000 from the county.
"We shouldn't gamble with taxpayers' money," Rodriguez said. "Now, if individuals want to sue them, that's fine and dandy. I'm not saying uranium is the best for Goliad County. We're just not going to be able to stop them."
Powell said the company already passed state inspection to receive its draft mining permit.
"I do believe no matter how much money they spend, they're going to lose," Powell said. "I think the commissioners mean well, but they've taken this thing and it's become a personal vendetta."