steroids buy

John Prager

DATE: October 17, 2003
LOCATION: Rosanky, Texas
TRANSCRIBERS: Chris Flores and Robin Johnson
REELS: 2265, 2266, and 2267

Please note that the recording includes roughly 60 seconds of color bars and sound tone for technical settings at the outset of the recordings. Boldfaced numbers mark the time codes for the VHS tape copy of the interview. “Misc.” refers to various off-camera conversation or background noise, unrelated to the interview.

DT: My name is David Todd. I’m here for the Conservation History Association of Texas. It’s October 17th, 2003, and we’re near a small community called Rosanky and we have the good fortune to be interviewing John Prager who has been an advocate for protection of Bastrop County and the Colorado River Basin from some of the lignite mining proposals and also the Longhorn pipeline and—and many other sort of projects and ideas. I wanted to thank you for taking the time to—to talk about your experiences.
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JP: Pleasure, pleasure.
DT: Well, Mr. Prager, I was hoping you might be able to help us begin by telling us how you first might have gotten exposed to the outdoors and interested in it and maybe excited about conservation.
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JP: Well, I—I was born and raised in—near Morgantown, West Virginia, Monongahela County, West Virginia and I spent my early years in—mostly in the woods. I lived on the edge of town and there was—well, there were a lot of open public areas at that time allowed the o—during the Depression along the—the coal companies, which had bought up large amounts of woodlands for their p—mine props and cross timbers and stuff. And so there were large chunks of unclaimed, more or less, public lands and I spent my life there hunting, fishing, trapping. All—all the things you do; skinny dipping and all that good stuff.
DT: Can you tell about some of your more favorite hunting trips or fishing trips or running trap lines?
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JP: Well, something that—that I think it—it was kind of interesting is I had a trap line in the subsidence features from an old coal mine. A—in the wintertime back there the—the—the steam and heat that rises from the old coal diggings and the fur bearing animals, foxes, skunks, (?), you know, that sort of thing, raccoons, they like those areas. So I actually was—I had a—oh, a mile and a half trap line in one of these series of—if you’ve seen pictures of mountaintop strip mining in West Virginia you’ll see wha—how the—the strata lay there. So—oh, but I just went around and about good things; swimming the Monongahela River and stuff like that.
DT: And how did you support yourself when you were living in West Virginia?
JS: Well, this was during my childhood days. I didn’t—I worked—I had a lot of relatives who lived up in the high Appalachians and around and I worked, but I worked in the woods cutting mine props in—in the summer times and cross beams and all those kinds of things. Every—everything back there when I was a child was related to the coal industry. My dad was a freight conductor on the Monongahela Railroad, which was a very lucrative little railroad. Ninety nine percent of their tonnage was related to either coalmine supplies or coal; uncles that worked in the mines. I had people—I had relatives whose land was mined and some of those neighborhoods up there—people had a coal mine in their—in their backyard, you know, where there was an out crop and they called them wagon mines. I don’t know what the tonnage was, but they would haul coal into towns and cities and dig it out in their backyard. So I did all those things.
DT: Did you mine as well?
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JP: Well, no I was too young to mine. I—I did have a brief episode in a—in a mine pulling pillars. When—when you underground mine you only get about 25 – 30 percent of the total resource. They have to leave these columns to hold up the—the roof and unscrupulous guys would go through there and lease these mined out mines and hire a bunch of kids and crippled people and who would lift—people who needed a job and pull pillars; take—take those pillars out. It was not—it was—I don’t know what insurance rates were for people that—no—no I—I did that when—part of one summer, but mostly I just did farm work and that sort of thing.
DT: And what brought you to Texas?
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JS: Well, I spent about three years or so in the Navy in World War II on a destroyer mostly in the Pacific and after the war I went back to West Virginia and got a job in coal mines and worked back there a couple of years and decided there was not much future there. This is when Harry Truman and John L. Lewis were having their monumental struggle over—the miners hadn’t had—had a strike or a—or a pay raise all during World War II and so they thought it was time to open up the process. And as a result there were a lot of small strikes and wild cat strikes and these kind of things. So I got tired of making two day a week pay checks, you know, so a friend of mine who was a—happened
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to be a recruiting sergeant for the Air Force in—in the town there said hey, how come you don’t join? I said you’re crazy, crazy. I had my share of that. Why don’t you join the military? I said well, if you could station me in New York City I’d be—take it on, you know. About a week later he came. He said hey, I got this telegram authorized to recruit you for Fort Slocomb, New York, which was about 20—20 miles up Long Island Sound. So I said great, but I didn’t—I overestimated, you know, the—the—the Army. A couple months later I was in San Antonio. They did—they—they reenlisted me for there. They didn’t say they’d keep me there, you know how that goes. So I spent about 17 years in the Air Force. I retired in 1966 a master sergeant.
DT: And did any of your experiences in the Air Force interest you in the outdoors or environmental issues?
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JP: Well, every time I got a chance I was out in the outdoors, yeah, mostly or—and I had good opportunities in New Mexico fighting forest fires and stuff like that which I always volunteered for, you know. I was in the crew that captured Smokey Bear up in Capitan. That must have been 1949 or 50, something like that.
DT: And tell about that.
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JP: Well, it was a—just another routine forest fire up in the Capitan Mountains and they used to come to the air base to get volunteers to come up and fight the forest fires. By that time I had fought several of them and so I had a little crew. We went up there and we found this little bear on an out crop. He was about that long, probably weighed 20 pounds, so we wrapped him up in some wet gunny sacks that we had that we were putting out stumps and the next day we were all freezing cold and it was early in the Spring and—and listened to the radio and it said that Smokey Bear had been flown to Roswell
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and from Roswell and he was now in the National Zoo in—in—in Washington and we were still up there on the mountain, you know. We fought several forest fires like that and I—I liked to go and volunteer for them because I liked to be in the out—outdoors, you know.
DT: What’s the experience of fighting a forest fire like?
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JP: It—it depends. Ray Bell is a name that came up—that came into—he died just not long or so ago and he was the chief ranger for the southern district of the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico and I used to hang out at his house and he had a daughter and—and what not and he had all this radio equipment. In those days they—they had fire towers, you know, they pretty much done away with them and then he had radios there, so I would always know when a fire was going to happen. So I was in several; Ruidoso, Cloudcroft, Black Mountain over in the Gila National, Gila Wilderness area, Capitan. Just wherever.
DT: And how would you fight those fires or help fight the fires?
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JS: Well, this was—this was before chainsaws, so mostly we would clear fire lines, try to contain the fire and—but it had to be done with cross cut saws, which I was very familiar with in cutting mine props and what not in West Virginia. So I usually ended up with a crew and several different kinds of Forest Service implements that—that specialized in something like cortex. A thing called a cortex was half an axe and half a rake if you can imagine that. The big problem was we’d get these city kids out there and with a double-bitted axe they—they were more dangerous than the forest fire. And there were always more injuries among amateur firefighters than, you know, there was from
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the fire certainly. But you make a fire line. It helps if you have a bulldozer. I remember one time somebody commandeered a bulldozer which belonged to Brown and Root who was working on a road—on a road project up there and cost us considerable consternation. Whether—whether it was the Air Force responsible for commandeering it or whether it was the Forest Service or we got—got into a big hassle about that. It—the thing broke down and they had to deploy the firefighting crew to protect the—the bulldozer. All of those things—it was a—but it was—it’s invigorating—invigorating.
DT: And dramatic. I mean can you describe the experience of the fire coming towards you or?
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JP: Well, I don’t know the—I think the closest I ever came to getting hurt was up on those mountains the big trees will fall a lot of dead trees down and there’s small trees. And small trees keep the logs up on the side of the mountain. After a while the little trees will burn through and release these logs and they’ll roll down the mountain. It’s quite spectacular, sparks flying everywhere. And so we had camped down at the base—base of the mountain and these things started coming down about two o’clock in the morning. We got out of there and got across on the other side of the little canyon and started watching quite a fireworks display. But we had our bivouac area down at the bottom of the mountain. It could have been—it could have been bad. Somebody was up and about.
DT: You said that you were stationed in San Antonio for a good while and…
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JP: Some—off and on in the Air Force, you know, I was going to be stationed in San Antonio sooner or later. There’s no avoiding it. I was sta—well, I was in—in—in an outfit that went to New Mexico. This was about the time the Air Force gained its independence, 47, 48, and then I came back in oh, 55 and I was there for four—three or four, five years then and I went overseas again and then came back and—and retired there in 66.
DT: Did you get a chance to explore the area around San Antonio or central Texas and any of the rivers?
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JP: Oh yeah, every weekend.
DT: Can you remember some of the more enjoyable trips you took, exciting ones?
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JP: Well, I personally discovered Gruene in 1902. No I—you know the Village of Gruene or we had called it Granny at the time, some of the old guys around there and—and my wife was taking an anthropology course at I guess San Antonio College and part of her requirements for a grade was to collect arrowheads of—and identify certain arrowheads. So we were out there looking in the—I saw this rusty water tank over there and I said I wonder what’s over there. You know if—if you’ve been to Green, it’s right there on the water. And I went over there and I said oh. It was all boarded up. There was nothing going on there at the time. But the largest green mercantile, whatever it is, it was boarded up and they were using it to store mohair, surplus mohair. The agriculture department was—so I went back over the years and watched the progress, I guess, Gruene, of it—we went all over, all over.
DT: Did you take any trips to springs?
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JP: Yeah, we didn’t—no, I didn’t do it regularly. I did, yeah, but I—not—not regularly up on the—up on the Blanco and Five Mile and those places that most people know about, Blue Hole and all of those places. We always went there.
DT: Tell us about Blue Hole or—or…
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JP: Blue Hole?
DT: …yeah.
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JP: Yeah, well it’s—it’s over there on a tributary of the Blanco and—and it’s quite a refreshing place and it’s good to go there and watch the teenagers leap out of those Cypress trees, you know. I used to do that myself, but I haven’t done it lately. The last time I was going to jump out of the Sycamore I climbed up and somebody nailed little steps up the side of it and I was up there not very high up and I got up there and I looked down and I said I don’t know whether I want to do this or not and then some little 8 or 9 year old girl said, Mister are you going to jump or what, you know, and I said like jumping out of Sycamore trees in the Monongahela River that’s—I grew up jumping out of them. I never even thought about it, but age lends a certain what? A certain something.
DT: A little caution.
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JP: Caution, yeah.
DT: Prudence.
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JP: But yeah, that’s a—that’s a good place. Five Mile, we used to go to Five Mile (?).
DT: What is that?
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JP: That’s behind Kyle on the Blanco there right back three or four miles from Kyle. It used to be quite a p—all these places have filled up with people, though I’ve noticed over the years except Martindale. Martindale still doesn’t have any people.
DT: Well, tell us about Martindale.
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JP: Well, Martindale is about five miles east of—of San Marcos—five, seven miles east of San Marcos and it’s a dam, an old dam and an old power p—power plant was I think part of that building was a bunch of abandoned old buildings there. And it’s just a gorgeous place and very few people go there. I hope it doesn’t get out. We were down there on the Fourth of July this year and there was not a soul who came there before lunch and the dam is probably 15 – 20 feet high and nice and good.
DT: Well, tell me how you eventually moved from San Antonio to the Bastrop area or were there intervening places that you lived?
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JP: Well, yeah af—after Korea I was stationed at 2410 San Antonio Street in Austin, Texas, which was a very pleasant assignment. And this was in 19 I don’t know, 52 – 53, something like that and I was working as a training advisor and what not to Air Force reserve units. We had a voluntary reserve group at the University of Texas and we had a lot of individual reservists who weren’t faculty members and graduate students at UT. And I’d make arrangements for their summer training and they got training materials for them and general flunky work. Subsequently they—they or—
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reorganized and expanded that and made 3rd Air Reserve district, which had all the Air Force reserve units in Texas, New Mexico and part of Oklahoma and moved into 14—1412 Avoca Street, which was across the hallway from Jake Pickles Public Relations Firm, Sayer, Pickle and Wynn. This was before he got into politics, although I think he was probably always his whole life into politics. And we had a general there and we—we got big. We had about 80 or 90 people and we monitored and approved training schedules and—for reserve units and helped them out and conducted inspections and paperwork mostly stuff.
DT: And what took you eventually to this part of the world in Bastrop area?
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JP: Well, I—I was stationed—after I left Austin I was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base. I was in something called non-resident training division, which was tech—had a technical writing section in there and I—I was—I worked as a tech writer for three or four years. And oh, then I went back over to Europe, back over to Spain, which was a pleasant assignment in Morocco and came back to Lackland and then I—I started working on a degree the years before. I finished my undergraduate degree up at Omaha, Nebraska, University of Nebraska Omaha, then I came back down and finished my masters at Lady of the Lake in San Antonio. And oh I was getting on. I was 39 years old and I was—thought we’d let the younger guys have—
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so I retired in 1966. The only notable thing about that is that I retired the day that Whitman climbed up on the tower at Un—University of Texas Austin. People in San Antonio said why are you going to Austin? Why—why are you leaving San Antonio? I said I can’t stand this—this crime that they have down here and that—that was the day that Whitman decided to climb on the University tower. As a matter of fact I had—had an appointment in Parlin Hall. It was the English building which was in the line of fire there, but I stopped to swim in the river down Atlanta Park and I was late for my appointment. I did graduate work at UT and I was—I was late for my appointment and I went into a service station down there and they said shh, shh, shh, there’s some idiot on the tower in Austin. You don’t want to go there. So I
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taught English—English education at UT, oh, about ’66 supervised student teachers and secondary English and stuff like that till up about oh, about—land in Bastrop County in ’72. So I moved out of Austin and moved out to Bastrop and I got tired of—I’m one of those guys that never finish their dissertation, you know. I noticed my last committee chairman died recently so I guess I never will. But—so I moved out to Bastrop and I taught in the evening division—the extension division at UT up till when about ’74 or ’75, something like that, and then I planted a little vineyard and settled down.
DT: In Bastrop County?
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JP: Uh-huh.
DT: Well, maybe you can help introduce us to life in Bastrop Country and particularly maybe tell us a little bit about the mining industry here and lignite resources that are out here that have drawn so much of your attention over the years. How did the lignite industry get started in this part of Texas?
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JP: It goes way back. I’m not really sure and I’m not sure that anybody knows David Krueger at—a geologist at LCRA has done a pretty good summary r—article on it and there have been dissertation—I think there’s one dissertation, several masters thesis and—on mining, but I—I know the earliest notice that I came up in—came up on was in—when Bastrop was trying to become the capitol of the state of Texas. One of the advantages they cited in their—in their plea was that—had an inexhaustible supply of lignite coal. I think they just said coal in Bastrop County, but
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that didn’t work out before them. The next reference I c—I had was that oh, it was pre—pre—pre Civil War there—they had fires in one of the coal mines, so mining was going on at—all that time. And then when the railroad came that—the K. D. Railroad came down from Elgin through Bastrop Smithville it went right through the lignite zone and that’s when there started to be a boom, you know. Over—over the years I think it was like 22 or 24—these were all underground mines, lig—lignite mines in Bastrop County between the Bastrop city limits and Camp Swift, Sayersville.
DT: Can you give us an idea of the scale of them? How many people worked in these mines? How big they were?
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JP: Well, in here I’m relying on Krueger’s research. They—they went from all of 10 to 12 men on a crew and one mule to 30 or 40. Practically all of the miners were immigrants from Mexico. That’s—if I might say that’s why—that’s how we sent everybody in so his family got here. They came up to the coal mines. And there were accidents and you can go over the field in some of these places and see group—group burials, you know, where the thing—I—I remember the first time I ever talked to an old guy who had worked in the—the lignite mines and I said what problems did
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you have in those mines? And he said bad air, too much water, poor roof and I said boy that’s just like West Virginia. I worked in a million and a half ton a year mine in Scottsrun, West Virginia. That was our problems; bad air. I think that’s in them—I think it’s—it happens with underground mining.
DT: Can you describe what he meant by bad air, too much water and…
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JP: Well, there are only two kind of coal mines, ones that are too wet and ones that are too dry. In the dry ones you get all—of course in those days they didn’t have nearly as much bad air as we have now with the—all the mechanized equipment grinding up the coal and all that. In those days where it was a pick and shovel operation there wasn’t that much but if you—in most coal mines the—the air is bad. Of course you get methane and hopefully not but sometimes you get black dam carbon monoxide, you know, seeps out of the coal seam so you get bad air in coal mines. That’s just the way it is and you get—that’s if they’re too dry. If they’re too wet then, you know, you’re up to your knees in water all the time and you’ve got
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water coming down on top of you and all that kind of stuff. Well, some of these seams were five and six feet thick, which is a pretty good size seam. I worked in 48 inch coal in West Virginia in a bunker mine, which means you never get to stand up. In West Virginia I see why perhaps Mexicans were better miners because they seem to be short in stature and the mine I worked in with a lot of Eastern Europeans, you know, they were that wide and, you know, that tall, you know. About the only time you got to straighten out was maybe at your lunch hour if there wasn’t enough—was enough water you could get ready—you could lie down and actually stretch out. That’s all the hazards of coal mining. These mines up here were all I think with one
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exception they started out as slope mines, which means they went in at an angle, into the seam, intercepted the seam. And then some of them were shaft mines where you have an elevator and you take it up. And then the—I think there’s one up there. It’s what we used to call in West Virginia, drift mine, where there was an exposure of the lignite seam and they just followed it into the side of the hill. We call them a drift mine not—I’ve heard them referred as other names. Yeah, they just follow the seam where it goes.
DT: And what would they do with this lignite once they pulled it out of the mine?
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JP: Here in Bastrop, well, you can still see some old houses in—in Bastrop where they have a real small grates. They don’t have a big wooden fireplace. They have a small grate, so they burn some of it. It was used for cotton gins, ice plants, heating at the University of Texas, power generations University of Texas, heating at the capitol complex. They used to have out on the eastside of the capitol they had a big fire furnace thing over there that—oh, it was—I think the last mine with any—any production accounted, having serious production was in 1944, although I’ve heard 45, but in that period after World War II. And the coal business is subject to ups and downs just like the oil business, you know, based on demand and what not. And that
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I believe there—there was a Professor Schoch, S-C-H-O-C-H, at UT. I believe he’s in chemical engineering. I don’t remember his—who studied lignite for a long time at the University of Texas. They tried everything to get it to burn and it—it wouldn’t burn. Well it—they tried to get it to improve the combustion and what not. Oh, they tried making coke out of it. They tried, I think, encapsulating it and other stuff, make—palletizing it and I think the University of Texas may have been the last person to use coal in any serious way.
DT: What exactly is lignite and how is it distinguished from other kinds of coal?
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JP: Well, on—on the range of coals they’re—they’re usually identified by BTU per pound. The—and—and sometimes on the basis of sulfur content because that’s what, you know, causes—causes a need for scrubbers and electrostatic precipitators and all of that environmental stuff. Anthracite coal is, I think, is around twelve or thirteen thousand BTU’s per pound. I’m not sure what sulfur content is. The—the coal—the main bituminous seams one I worked in in West Virginia, the Pittsburgh Seam and the Sewickley Seam are thirteen—twelve or thirteen thousand BTU’s per pound and it goes on down to sub-bituminous around eight thousand or something like that, which is what our western coal is out here, around—between eight thousand and eighty five
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hundred BTU’s per pound. About—that western coal has got point three—point O three percent sulfur. That’s why they call it western low sulfur coal. Lignite—the—the—there’s several lignite’s but the—the principle one here is the—the Wilcox Carrizo Lignite, which is a pretty good lignite as—as—as fuels go. It’s about one to two percent sulfur and if you hit a real good seam it—it—it’s up to pretty approaching six thousand BTU’s per pound. But it’s generally, I think, around five—fifty five hundred or something that BTU’s per pound. Then the Aowa Jackson Lignite, the kind that is in Fayette County, the kind that Cummins Creek proposing mine is way down there below chicken manure. Actually, the—the—the group that opposed it down there they had this range of scale of coals and then they had chicken manure and
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then they had the lignite—Jackson Lignite under that and the BTU value. And it’s fair—fairly sulfurous stuff, but when you hear them talk about low sulfur western coal they’re talking about the Powder River Basin, Montana and Wyoming and it’s a pretty good fuel. It’s a principle fuel, actually, now in Texas for power production. Well, I’m not sure that it’s—but it’s—I think lignite is kind of tapering off. The city of San Antonio, which owned all these lignite reserves up here has chosen to build western coal fired plants for their own use. They built two; Deely Plant and they built—they’re building now—getting ready to build their third western coal fired plant.
DT: Can you tell us a little bit about some of the coal mines that you’ve been involved in?
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JP: Okay, a friend of mine living over in the—the Camp Swift area came to me and said hey, they’re going to strip mine over there and I said, yeah, no way, you know, there’s nothing worth strip mining over there. I was thinking in terms of West Virginia mining, you know. And I said no, but I’ve known people actually. Andrew Owen, Owen family had worked in the mines. He was a—had been a foreman, superintendent or something at one of the mines up there and I knew them. And they said you’ve got to come help us. So I—so I s—said well, I don’t know. I don’t want to get involved in all that stuff. And—and then I…
DT: What year was this?
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JP: …seventy nine—seventy nine, yeah. And then they told me that they were going to strip mine Camp Swift—some five or six thousand acres of Camp Swift and I said this sounds kind of serious and that’s when I began to look into it in—in earnest and—and to see what the potential impacts were for Bastrop County and—which I dearly love and would hate to see these things ruined, you know. At that time I didn’t even know where the lignite was. I mean it may have been in the lost pines for all I knew, so I’d—I was—a fellow, oh gosh I can’t remember his name, did a masters thesis at UT called The Banking of Lignite Leases in Bastrop County and I got a copy of that and he had pretty much outlined where they were and he had done some research on leases and it appeared that forty thousand acres were going to be—were potentially strip mineable.
DT: Were these leases exclusive to oil, gas, gravel, anything or were they specific to…
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JP: Well, the Texas Supreme Court is—has wrestled with that problem. Most of them read—said oil, gas and other minerals, but there were other ones that said clay. For instance, in the Elgin area some of the leases were for clay and other minerals. Some of them were for lignite. I mean some of them were purely—I think the—I’m not sure what their name was at that time but the Texas Utilities Group had leased I think about eighty five hundred acres in the Powell Bend area. And they—what was the—I can’t remember the decision now but the Texas Supreme Court—they—they—were these part of the surface estate or were they part of the mineral estate, which made a big difference. And the Texas Supreme Court came with it—with a doctrine which they called the Surface Destruction Test, which is nonsensical and has
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been pointed out by a lot of law reviews but it’s still the existing law in Texas. If the surface of the land would be destroyed by the mining operation then the—the minerals they’re in belong to the surface estate. All Texas is divided you know into surface estate and the mineral estate. If—if it wouldn’t be disturbed or destroyed then it belonged to the mineral estate. That’s—that’s—but the mineral seams tend to run up and down and vary in some places where they would be feasibly mineable by strip mining down dip, as they say then deeper, they wouldn’t be with the present technology. Although, there’s always a possibility of new technology coming, so yeah, that’s something that the Supreme Court—I think it was Whittaker was the decision back in the early days of—of serious lignite, you know, which came about when Texas Utilities got interested in (?).
DT: I’m just curious if the surface estate owners, landowners, knew that they were leasing lignite rights and that they were exposing themselves to surface mining?
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JP: Well, this—this—this came—became a problem in the Powell Bend area because much of these leases had been negotiated back in the 50’s. And the people who had negotiated these leases, the old timers, they remembered lignite mining. You know, when you had a mule and eight or ten guys and they push four or five carts of lignite out at the end of the day and maybe a load of—a railroad car every week or something like that, that’s what they had in mind. They had—hadn’t no idea that there was going to be these people come with huge bulldozers and destroy their land. Fortunately, a lot of those leases as—as I said were negotiated back in the 50’s and they were nearing that 30 year cut off. And if—if mining begins on the—a piece of
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land within that 30 year period then it continues indefinitely. The lease just goes on forever as long as they want to mine it. So that was a—that became an issue in the—in Powell Bend area primarily because LCRA’s leases were expiring on them and—which most of these people did not want to (?). And I—I saw leases that pay these people ten cents a ton. Back in the 50’s people were trying to get up—in Bastrop County people were trying to get up enough money to pay their taxes. I mean during the drought area—era and they—they—they didn’t ask fine questions. Some—the—the disparity among knowledgeable people who had negotiated leases and the poor old farmers or—or homesteaders or whatever, was incredible. They were—they were getting ten cents—ten cents a ton was their royalty. Oh some of the other—then the other people were getting four or five dollars, you know, it depended. You mean the negotiations?
DT: Yeah, sure. It seems like they aren’t entirely evenhanded or…
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JP: Well, it’s you know, it’s—the minerals business is a hole. You’ve all heard horror stories about people losing their oil, you know, because of these sharp—sharp landsmen and people coming from (?). But it happens all over the country. It happens in the—in the—in the forest industry. People get robbed of their trees because they don’t know how to negotiate. I see A & M has put out a publication here within the last four or five years on the—how to avoid getting ripped off by foresters, you know, forest company. So it’s—I think it’s endemic to the minerals and natural resources extraction business that, you know, go—go to Luling, you know, you don’t see many rich people in Luling. You know how much oil has come out from under there.
DT: What was going through their head at the time that they made these leases?
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JP: As I said some of them were just simply trying to get out enough money to pay their taxes. (Inaudible) taxes, which was a serious problem down here and—well, all over, you know. And then some cases the people living on the land are third generations removed from the people who negotiated the lease, you know, and so you’re—you’re speculating what the motivation was. And in, again, most of them at—in—in those earlier days had no idea of the massive depredations that strip—the strip mining does, you know. They had no idea that it were, you know, the model was a little underground coal mine, which you know in those days wasn’t even mechanized, you know, it didn’t produce dust, heat, you know—you know, noise.
DT: How does strip mining differ from the old shaft mines and dif mines that you described?
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JP: Aside from a hoist at some of these old lignite mines there was—there was no—no mechanization at all. Some of them had a steam driven hoist that would—up an elevator that would bring stuff to the surface, bring the lignite to the surface. That was the only mechanized equipment there was. Well, these—strip mining—the—the scale is such that they have, no, they have drag lines that you can park three or four pick up trucks in the bucket, you know, we’re talking about heavy duty there. They haul the stuff in hundred ton trucks, you know, they strip and grub and tear up the land with these huge claw like bulldozers and things that just, you know, just destroy the land and that—that’s modern strip mining.
DT: And when did that first get started here in central Texas?
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JP: As I say the Texas Utility I think were the first people to get involved and they had mostly—their operations were up in Titus County up in East Texas. It was still the Wilcox Carrizo Formation. Big Brown up in Limestone—I forgot what county Big Brown’s in but there were four or five large—they used it to generate electric power and power plant fuel. And in those days you didn’t have to put any kind of environmental controls on them, you know, and so they were all mind mouth. You didn’t have to ship it. They built the power plant with mind mouth and so you had no transportation costs, which has always been the big bug a boo from the Texas Railroad Commission standpoint from the freight rates and rail fees, you know, schedules from Montana and Wyoming. They always feel vulnerable somehow or other that their at the mercy of the railroads, which at one time was true but it’s not true any more. So I don’t know what—what date those early Texas Utility power plants came on line. I would suspect about maybe early 70’s, late 60’s.
DT: What do you think fueled the conversion from the old manual, small scale mines to these mechanized mines?
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JP: Oh, the amount of consumption. The—these power plants I mean, you know, you’re talking about hundreds of tons a minute, you know, I mean you’re—you’re talking about eight what—eight, nine millions tons a year maybe some of those big power plants with—so you’re talking about a scale which could not be supported—which not—could not be supported by the old fashioned mines even in the highly mechanized underground mines in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. There—they can’t keep up really with the demand even with their high value fuels they’re—they’re having a problem. Someone told me that they were burning western coal now in the—in Ohio and Illinois and back in what used to be a coal country in the east that
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they’re now burning western low sulfur coal primarily because that it costs maybe twenty percent more to build a power plant for lignite because of the additional environmental controls; the scrubbers and electrostatic precipitators and all that stuff adds incredibly to the fixed costs, you know, getting in. So with the point three percent sulfur coal from the west and the—you—first of all with the eight—eight—eight thousand and eighty four hundred cal—what am I saying? Fuel…
DT: BTU’s?
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JP: BTU’s per—per pound you can use a third less, which means you have the—you have a third less or—or more actually ash to take care of, ash pits, sludge pits, you—you just got a whole lot more to contend with, you know, with the lignite or any higher grade coal.
DT: Maybe we ought to return to what you were discussing before with this lignite mine in central Texas that was proposed for Camp Swift and this first drew your attention about 25 years ago.
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JP: Yeah, one thing that precipitated the—the lignite boom was the Ar—the Arab oil embargo in the early 70’s that got everybody panicked and so in the meantime in 1977 SMCRA, Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, a federal act, got passed and a lot of the people who were interested in federal lands development and what not got kind of shut out in a way. So they had provisions for NRDC, National Resource Defense Council, f—filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of the Interior and they—he—a j—a federal judge made an exemption. LCRA, our local Lower Colorado River Authority, filed an application to lease Camp Swift on a—oh, what did they call that? There was a—there was an exception made—hardship—it was a hardship coal lease. Well, it wasn’t really no hardship for LCRA. They had a lot of
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surplus capacities at the time, but that was the proceedings that—that were developed at Camp Swift and the Bureau of Land Management was responsible for the surface estate in Camp Swift. So they conducted a—or began an environmental impact study under NEPA, National Environmental Policy Act. A lot of these things that—that came about in the 70’s, you know, a lot of these things were signed by Richard Nixon our greatest environmental President. But all of these things, NEPA, Endangered Species Act, The Safe Drinking Water Act, all of these things happened in that period at—from the early Nixon Administration up through Carter—up—mostly up through the Carter Administration. So a lot of these things that—that—the federal agencies were still in rule making, you know, they were still trying how to implement the law and so there was delays and what not and court—a lot of court cases and what not.
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Where was I? Oh, back to Camp Swift, so I got—I got to—to look at the draft environmental EIS. They produced three volumes EIS and a Technical Reports Volume, which has the meat of the stuff, which they didn’t distribute very widely. But the TRV, the Technical Reports Volume, had most of the—the research and what not in it that this decision was based on. So they wanted to—oh, we raised all issues; the ground water impact, the surface water impact, the endangered species impact, air quality impacts, you know, whatever we could hang our hats on. But we had no information. We—we—we didn’t have any specialists, you know, LCRA was hiring consultants from all over the world, you know.
DT: Could you maybe pin down two or three of the significant impacts you foresaw at Camp Swift that worried you the most?
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JP: Well, all the public water supply in Bastrop County comes from ground water, you know, and the Camp Swift wells which were developed while the Army was there in 1942, 43 had served as the source for the city of Bastrop’s water, all the water distribution in the area after the Army left and the new Aqua Water Supply Corporation, which was a regional co-op, they took over the operations of those wells. There was not a whole lot of data. See that’s the—the problem of dealing with ground water, you know, that’s what the Texas Supreme Court said. It’s a mystery or something.
DT: Occult.
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JP: Yeah, they call it, yeah right, right, yeah. It’s strange, but we had—there was—there were no data bases, none, you know we had to just dig everything out as it went along. We—nobody knew exactly the flow rate in the Colorado River. I mean somebody knew but we didn’t know. We didn’t know Piney Creek Watershed; how many acres was in it and that’s where they were going to distribute some of the mine water would run into Big Sandy Creek. The—the lignite zone, you know, stretches mostly from one end from Butler from Lee County all the way down to Caldwell County and it’s what three or four miles wide. So we had—we had nothing to go on even though it’s nice to say that no party bears a burden of proof, which is what most of these regulations say, you know, party bears a—that’s alright if you’re LCRA and
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have hired six consultants, you know, but if you’re just Joe Schmoe retired farmer out there, you know, it’s a—it’s—the—that’s kind of misleading to say that you’re all on equal footing. Although, I don’t know, all in all I suppose given their budgetary constraints they—they did a fair project there, but there was a lot of—lot of just stupid stuff in, you know, for instance, one thing was in—in—in the reclamation period Coastal Bermuda Grass would be distributed in the ratio of two barrels or two bushels per acre or what not. Well, any farm kid in Bastrop County knows that Coastal Bermuda Grass doesn’t produce viable seed, you know. I mean those kinds of things. They—they did an—an evaluation of—of the forests coverage on Camp Switch—Camp Swift which was—the—the whole thing is around eleven thousand, but they were going to—one lease signed around six thousand—fifty five hundred to
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six thousand on the basis of one transect of—of—I think it was a hundred feet inventory in the trees and what not. And to cover all the varied, you know, habitat and varied plant communities up there and they did it on the basis of one little transect, you know, and that—that kind of stuff, you know, you could just go through that technical reports volume and see that a lot of this was done by amateurs. A lot of it I think is—is—is a product of hiring these hot rock consultants—environmental consultants who then go out on the market and hire slobs like me who don’t, you know, to do the work, you know. And yet, for instance, let me name a couple of them; Radian Corporation was a big, big consultant. That name carries the weight when it goes into the administrative record, when it goes before administrative judge.
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The name Radian carries the weight, although, the work that was done, you know, was—may or may not have been good. Nobody ever really analyzes that. Same thing is true with—there was like five burial sites. One of the places they can’t strip mine is a graveyard burial site. There’s a hundred foot setback. But they didn’t locate all of those cemeteries when they did the EIS, you know, they did—but—but they—these studies gathered—I think the Texas Historical Association—I don’t—I don’t know Commission—I’m—I’m not sure who did that initial Camp Swift cultural resources inventory, but we began to at least get together a bunch of information primarily from our enemies.
DT: Maybe you can tell us who we were and who your opponents were.
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JP: Well, there’s a whole bunch of really good people. A bunch of beautiful women, you know that? If we had to rely on the men in Bastrop County it would never happen, but there was a dozen or so women who really worked on this thing; did a lot of work, research and writing. And you know, I could name names, but you know, there’s just a whole bunch of them.
DT: And the group was called?
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JP: The Central Texas Lignite Watch it eventually became named, yeah. And then we went about organizing the bird watches and the historical people and Audubon Society. We—primarily we did that to—to get some substance behind our things, you know, when—when I wrote these things and sent them in but if it was the president of Bastrop county Audubon Society it carried more weight. So we started organizing people and—and it’s interesting. It’s interesting to me that in all—all of that Camp Swift proceeding the federal prison was against it, the University of Texas was against it,
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the Texas Veterinary Research or whatever it is thing up there where they had exotic and endangered animals housed outside. They didn’t want the dust on them. They were against it. The Bastrop Commissioners Court adopted a resolution against it. The City of Bastrop stepped in. There wasn’t a soul that I was ever able to identify in Bastrop County that was for lignite. In fact, I haven’t heard in the last 20 years anybody say a good thing about lignite and these are people that know I wouldn’t hit them, you know, that—I mean—it’s just—and—and so all of the local concerns and considerations and things were just steam rolling.
DT: And who were some of the steam roller proponents?
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JP: Well, the—the principle villain, is that a good word? The principle—the—the proponent was the—the Lower Colorado River Authority because they had filed the lease—request to lease it by competitive leasing wherein it was their downfall.
DT: And why were they so eager to lease a mine when they had excess capacity of electricity?
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JP: Well, part of it as I say was—was the Arab oil embargo. That was part of it. Part of it was they had entered into a contract for western coal with in—in their own terminology unconscionable real Burlington Northern really got him so they were paying outrageous amounts of money for western coal. And at that time Burlington Northern had a monopoly access to the Powder River Basin. They could charge anything they wanted. However, within five or six years the Chicago Northwestern and several—several other people got access to the coal supplies and—and the shipping costs went down tremendously. So from probably about two dollars—two
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dollars and fifty cents, something like that, per million BTU is what they were paying for western coal under the Decker Contract it was called. In 1986 – 87 they were paying ninety six cents. I mean there was that much—that much reduction c—mostly caused by the decreasing rail rates plus the fact that a whole bunch of big oil and gas companies got involved in what they call the overthrust up there in Montana. That thing they found and they got in and said wow, look at the money to be made by strip mining, so they all got involved up there. And at one time I looked up—there’s a publication called the Keystone Manual. Coal mine—the coal industry tells every mine in the country how much was produced and the approximate quality of the
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product and all that. This Keystone Manual said there was 35 or 40 million tons of surplus capacity in the Powder River Basin. Another thing that contributed to it was the Fuels Use Act. That was a bad, bad act, but Jimmy Carter, I don’t know how he let that happen, but for a period of about ten years people were constrained from building power plants using natural gas. Can you imagine that? I mean you couldn’t even have legitimately one of these decorative gas lamps in your front yard under the Fuels Use Act. Anyhow, and I kept writing letters and writing letters and Jake Pickle—and Jake Pickle opposed it and he wrote letters and eventually it got (?). It got repealed, but that tended to run up the price if—if—if one of your prime fuel sources is excluded, you know, so there were—it was a combination of things that were—that affected prices.
[End of Reel 2265]
DT: How was it that all this land got pulled together and had both service and mineral rights together?
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JP: Well, the—the original fee simple title was taken over by the government—the—the military government in 1942. They—they bought all of it fee simple, so they owned everything from down, so the question of the mineral versus surface rights did not arise in Camp Swift. There had been promises made that after the war this land would be returned to the original owners. And let me tell you about the original ow—the original owners. Most of them were poor black families and these were small farms and they were isolated up there and there was a war going on and everybody wanted to be patriotic and the—some of the prices that the government paid for those farms would—would shock and offend you. I mean really. I’m—
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I’m—and s—the Army marched in, put up a barbed wire fence and took over. I talked to a guy, well—well, after we got into this thing I helped organized a group—another group called The Camp Swift Owners and Heirs and Property Owners Association and it was ninety percent black and we met in some country churches up here and people put in money. Some of these people done pretty well since—the best thing that ever happened to them was probably getting kicked—kicked out of their peanut patch up there. But they—we put up quite a bit of money. We hired a lawyer and went (?). All these people insisted that they were—the government had told them they would get their land back. After the war the disposition of federal properties
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statutes changed and even though at one time Lyndon Johnson—this is—one of the guys told me. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but even Lyndon Johnson had attempted to try to return it to individuals and it couldn’t get through. There was a family—the Scott Family who were the largest landowners on—on—in the—in the tract. I’ve forgotten how much acreage they had. In 1948 or 49 Mrs. Scott, the surviving widow, got this letter asking her if she would like to buy her land back and they quoted a price which was reasonable and what not. And they—they wanted a cashier’s check and, you know, so Mrs. Scott didn’t have the money. I’ve forgotten how much it was; several thousand dollars, nine or ten thousand or something. She went to the Elgin Bank, borrowed the money, sent it to the government. In the meantime the Korean War started in 1950 and the government thought they might
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reactivate Camp Swift. After like two years they sent her back her cashier’s check. No letter or transmittal, no nothing. Just—they sent it back. They kept it for like two years and then sent it back to her. The role of the government in dealing with these people up in that area is—we hope to chronicle that in Sayersville Bulletin which is another organization that got started out of all this. But I—I’ve been to the basement of the courthouse in San Antonio and looked at all the transfers and the property right and the federal government bought it for war purposes. And I thought we might have a—might have a case there. Remember the Dallis Family down—it was the—it was the Hollis Family? The family down there that had their land condemned during World War II in one of their barrier islands— Matagorda Island I guess it was. And they had a suit going for a long time because their land was condemned for war purposes, but when there was no more war, you know, that was pretty hard to
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maintain the—the validity of that c—condemnation. Also something that might have happened is I read some of the papers where a Navy captain was cited. I don’t know what a Navy captain was doing, had signed this thing reserving all fissionable materials that might be found on the land even if—even if they return the land to the people that—that the government ret—retained a fissionable material. So I don’t know what was going on, but I—I met—I met this one guy—Black guy who had been a tech sergeant, I think, in the Army. He stayed in the Army. He said that he got drafted and he went off and he went to basic training somewhere in Louisiana and he got his post basic training leave and he went back to Camp Swift to visit and there was a fence up and there were soldiers guarding it and barbed wire across the roads
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and he said I’ve got to get in there. My grandma live in there. He came back to—to see his grandma and he never did find his grandma. Well, I mean he did later, but during his leave he went back to the Army post and had not even determined what had happened to the family. That happened to a lot of people. The Charles Bells family out on Utley out there, they—they had land out there and they got separated from their land. They—it, you know, it broke up homes, families broke up, home sites had broke up the way of life, you know, but there it was. And subsequently they—they—the government did a lot of things with it having nothing to do with war purposes. The federal prison is there, you know, there’s—there are a lot of things (?). Some of it is rumor that politicos in Bastrop County now have subdivisions up there. They—they had a sewage treatment plant on the post and
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when they left it just left—the government just left. And in the meantime another guy came in Lake Bastrop Acres came in and did a subdivision that people bought houses and property because there was a sewage system. It didn’t go anywhere. And for years and years it contaminated Big Sandy Creek, which—I mean Piney Creek, which is the western boundary of the City of Bastrop. They didn’t know where all this stuff was coming from that was coming out of that—out of that abandoned sewage treatment system. The people in good faith bought lots and land, built houses up there because it—there appeared to be a sewage system but there wasn’t. Finally, LCRA bailed us out on that here recent—not—well, a few years back. They took over the sewage treatment problem up there and (?).
DT: Describe competitive leasing.
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JP: Well, as you see in here it said this would be provided competitive leasing and—and other places it says that. Congressman Pickle, a great, good man, I voted for him his whole career, principle constituent was LCRA. I mean they’re the people who usually wanted federal grants or you know cooperative agreements and he was concerned about the possibility of this land up here being taken by a Texas utilities or Houston Lighting & Power or what cause—since it was to be competitive bidding. So he negotiated something which became and called the Pickle Amendment. He and Patsy
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Mink of—of Hawaii in which it said that any—any of this land would be—these reserves were reserved for publicly owned companies presently generating electricity for sale in central Texas. So that Pickle Amendment squeezed everybody else out. It left LCRA, it left City of Austin, it left City of San Antonio. These were the only three available competitive—reasonable competitive I suppose for, but the reasonable—no, they couldn’t have fit. They producing electricity, but they were the only competitive—competitors in the fit. It came to my attention, I—I’d rather not say exactly why, but it—it came to my attention that the City of San Antonio and LCRA and the City of Austin had signed an agreement not to bid against each other. The Federal Mine Leasing Act, which goes back into the 9th century—19th century
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requires competitive bidding. So when I got my hands with that I went and trotted off to a lawyer and said look at here. And he said well, I said I’ll need something drafted up, so he said go ahead, use what you got. So I had just a tablet I mean that I filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney in San Antonio saying that this was in violation of the Competitive Bidding Act. I don’t know exactly what happened. I never did know how that worked out. I know they had reserved a hotel room in Austin or a suite in order to announce they awarded these leases. And it was to be an event of some sort and the last minute the Department of Justice stopped it and they never—it never came up again. And I—I swear sometime later there was a possibility that it—it might—the leasing thing might come up again and so we requested a supplemental EIS based on some data that was—that we could site that was inaccurate or wasn’t
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there. And by that time the Bureau of Land Management, which controlled the acreage, had lost interest in it and then LCRA had lost interest. They were involved in Cummins Creek and other stuff. And the energy supply sis—situation drastically changed, so they—they never did do a supplemental EIS and today this—this would be the governing document I guess on leasing on Camp Swift. Another thing that—that I want—we’re talking about people who opposed it, that the Texas National Guard had been developing that quite extensively or begin to—beginning to it—develop it. And I talked to some of the officers and people up there. In fact, remember the Scott family was—caretaker. He’s in charge of it. He was a master sergeant in the—in the Guard. And the—and it—it appears that—that the National Guard was scared of something for some reason out of raising objections. However,
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they did put some requirements in the mining thing. For instance, the lessee would have had to take over all liability from exploding ordinance and clean that up. It was just—they’re still doing—they’re working on that to this day, from abandoned shells and what not, so and they put some other things in there, which were—because their area—their headquarters area is right in the middle of the lease area. But they—somebody had frightened them into not raising objections on the first go around. Another thing that happened was, it—it required that it be coordinated with a—with an area estate land use proposal. Somebody went to BGE and I suspect it was somebody at LCRA.
DT: This would be the Bureau of Economic…
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JP: (?) at the University of Texas, yeah. I found that the head of BEG is—is—is the state geologist too. That’s another hat. I didn’t know that. Anyhow, Dr. Warmand wrote a plan for the multiple use of Camp Swift, which supported the leasing. I never did know what basis he did that or why he did it or anything. It clearly did not com—comply with the federal regulation on land use studies and—and, you know, that sort of thing. I don’t know what (?).
DT: One other mysterious thing you ran across was that they never were able to tell you where they were going to burn this lignite that they proposed to mine.
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JP: Precisely.
DT: Why was that?
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JP: Well, there—there is a term in NEPA, I forgot the CFR 15, whatever it is, there’s a term in NEPA that forbids oh, something or other, illegal—what’s the name of that? Illegal s—sed—not sedimentation, I think, segmentation. In other words, when you do an EIS and th—and this is based on a lawsuit in Memphis called the Citizens to Preserve Overland Park and a f—and a federal highway somewhere in Indiana. There are three or four cases on this, which you cannot—if you’re going to build a 200 mile highway you can’t do an EIS on five miles and then a year later another five miles. Illegal s—segmentation or something, I forget the terminology, if you’re going to dam the—the Trinity River and this—this was applied here in Texas, you’re going to have to consider the environmental impact statement based on the whole river not just up 25 miles to the salt water divide, you know.
DT: It’s about Wallisville that you’re talking about.
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JP: Right. So over here we kept saying where is this stuff going to be burned? Nobody knew. Nobody would say. Some people said well, here, there. It was a problem for the people writing it, you know, it was a problem from—for the technicians writing it because you could see the—how they attempted to avoid that. Well, sometime later it came to my attention, again by an unknown personage, that LCRA had a plan to dam Wilbarger Creek all the way across the Southern Pacific Railroad up there, build an eight mile railroad from Camp Swift to a little town called Coon Neck over there on—on Wilbarger Creek and build a power plant over there. So a power plant, a dam and—and a railroad. They were all on the boards. I had the
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maps, so I had the—the engineers designs on everything. And all the time that they—the bastards were—were saying we—well, we—we can’t consider that in this EIS because, you know, this is just to—to mine it, not to burn it, which was clearly, you know, illegal and then they did it. They did it. Anyhow, we—we had that to work into our request for a supplemental that we now knew where it was going to be burned and that they should consider that in any—in the supplemental EIS, which might have killed it anyhow, but as I say in the meantime the LCRA had turned to other things.
DT: Was Cummins Creek the next mine you got involved with?
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JP: About that time these things all overlap. If—if I might I’d rather stay with Camp Swift.
DT: Oh please.
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JP: Well, as a re—after this thing was of no avail I filed an unsuitability petition under SMCRA to declare some of those lands up there unsuitable for strip mining. There’s a provi—provision in SMCRA which says if lands are not—well, there are several categories but if they’re not technologically or economically feasible to mine they would be declared unsuitable and not—not u—mine. There are some other categories; you can’t mine in cemetery, you can’t mine in national monument, I mean you know there’s some—but generally there’s fragile lands provisions. And so I filed an uns—this unsuitability petition with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, which at that time was in Kansas City or at least the agency that would handle it was in Kansas City. Unfortunate coincidence there that a fellow by the name of James Watt became
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Secretary To The Interior and completely tore up the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, which had been doing good work and closed down the Kansas City office, opened the tech—Western Technical Center in Colorado and a lot of the people who were in Kansas City didn’t want to move to Colorado. You know how that works when you just move an agency like that. So I—I filed this thing asserting basically the same thing that we had asserted our objections that had been asserted in the EIS, however, this time I had a whole lot more data. I had a whole—all the data that had come out of the studies and reports and what not for this. And so this was a lot more—a lot more complete and detailed.
DT: What was your principal argument that it was unsuitable for mining?
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JP: Well, same old things; the ground water, surface water, air, endangered species.
DT: What were some of the endangered species that you were concerned about?
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JP: Well, actually a Houston toad; they always asserted that there were no Houston Toads in Camp Swift. As a result of this the U.S. Office of Surface Mining hired Dr. Dixon from A & M, reptologist I believe, to do another survey and they found Houston Toads calling in—within a half a mile of the lease area and in Oak Hill Cemetery and ponds and what not. So that—that was more—more details that came out of—out of this, you know. And I must say that OSM did a pretty good job, really, I felt the original people who came down from Kansas City were quite good. I—I mean I took them around town and took them to BEG and showed them what publications they needed. They were working from my bibliography here, so they—so they put together a good thing. Most of those people didn’t survive the move to—I
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think some of them were fired and some of them just didn’t want to move to (?). The—they did a lot of good work. They did it real complete. This thing was based on the old Army well field, the ground water impact at—in 42 – 43. OSM did a new modeling thing—a complete modeling thing with an outfit called ESI, Environmental Services, it’s a—it’s a reputable firm, which curiously enough they send the—the data back to my home town to be analyzed. The Appalachian Coal Research Center, Morgantown Energy Center, its had a number of different names, was in my hometown. It’s run by the Bureau of Mines, not the OSM, and they sent it—sent it—sent the data back there to be analyzed. Incidentally, they never did get the on the ground data on this—on this thing to agree with your computer. They never did. It was always like the depths were 60 or 80 feet off and they sent that thing back and
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forth and finally I think they moved on some guy and some guy at the University of West Virginia was—had the Cray, the big computer system. So they—they turned this one down too, you know, and—and there was well over five thousand pages in the administrator record and they hadn’t provided me the administrative record completely. One of the provisions of the unsuitability is they would—the petitioner would get copies of everything that was in the record and I didn’t get copies so I—I bundled that up into a lawsuit against James Watt and filed a lawsuit. I think it was interesting and I just extracted this thing, the adverse impacts described herein would not normally be mitigated by usual sites specific measures. It was going to take some extraordinary measures to mitigate, which I said has got to translate into economics,
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you know, it had to. Also I came in—in—into possession of—when I—in discovery went I got the papers in the administrative record a memo—an interior memo up there which had circulated and which they had said be sure and tell Bureau of the Land Management, somewhere that any miner who plans to mine this area is going to encounter ba—ba—ba—bad stuff, which to me validated, you know, if—if that’s what…
DT: The conclusion was that it was suitable for mining.
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JP: …yeah, yeah. It was economically and technically feasible.
DT: Why wasn’t Camp Swift mined and how were the environmental reasons figured in or not figured in?
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JP: Well, I—I don’t know, you know, I can’t project. I—I think economics eventually so, but see under—under—under…
DT: What do you think the economic reasons might have been that killed Camp Swift?
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JP: The availability of natural gas, the decline in—in the rail rates from the Powder River Valley, they got tired of the hassle, they got completely involved in Cummins Creek and they couldn’t handle two of these at one time, then they got involved in—it was just a whole—for their—it seemed to me based on the people I know at the LCRA and there for about two or three years or three or four years all—all they got done down there was hassle with—with lignite. It was—they were getting—I had two or three suits going and another interesting thing about this is that the City of
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Bastrop had said all of these people, you know, local people opposed this never had a voice. They were as voiceless as the poor guys whose land the Army took over, you know? We had oh, the last six or seven county judges in Bastrop County have been opposed to strip mining, you know, we—we—we haven’t suffered from any lack of cohesion or local support. That’s not been a problem. But why they just left Camp Swift alone I don’t know.
DT: Do you think the environmental studies and reviews had delayed it long enough so that it died of its own…
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JP: Times have changed. The Arab starts in this oil again and the Fuels Use Act got—got repealed and I think also that they were beginning to see the vast—the vast—the vast discrepancy between what they thought was involved in strip mining and what was really involved and—and stripping and burning combustion.
DT: …how do you…
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JP: Well, I’m pretty naïve but some of these people were really naïve. I don’t want to blame this on A & M but some professor at A & M made a speech somewhere in which he said that McDade may become the Pittsburgh of the south, you know, you know, McDade the little old town up there on 290. I was up there collecting—early in this game I was up there collecting signatures on a petition or something and the lady that ran the gas station there and she came out and said what are you doing? I’m getting petitions. Well, she said McDade is going to be the Pittsburgh of the south. I said well I was raised near Pittsburgh. Are you sure you’re right, you know, be Pittsburgh. But there was just all of this saying and then the LCRA, not—not just LCRA but LCRA just magnified the—the potential economic a—assets or—or e—developments and things that can happen from lignite development. And then they were, you know, they were saying well, we’ll have—we’ll create 500 jobs, we’ll create 750 jobs, we’ll create forty some hundred jobs, you know, and they used this
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study that was done on Mount Pleasant, Titus County where they had—they did an analysis of the good and bad affects of—of lignite development. But they were as gone on—they—later on when LCRA hi—hired a new mine manager down there, one day I was talking to him—to him and Judge Fritz and I said well you knew all that—you knew all that stuff was true. And he said nobody ever said it would create 500 jobs in Bastrop and so I dug out the thing. It said right there. I said so how many did you end up hiring? Eight, you know, there was a s—a kind of a surge in optimism fueled by BEG, fueled by the state government, fueled by just—that lignite
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was going to be it, you know. We’re running out of oil and gas, you know, which was always ridiculous, you know. The Yankees are robbing us on western coal, you know, all of—all of—there was this kind of thing. Lignite is where it’s going to be. They were projecting 50 million tons a year production and something like that at one time. I—I used to keep saying well, what are you going to do when it’s all mined out because there’s not any—any definite supply. Part of the problem was that they—they had maps which showed this big vast area of lignite, you know. They didn’t realize that the deepest lignite mines in Texas at that time were 120 feet and—and it’s
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tough. It gets expensive to mine below that when you get the artesian pressures coming up from the Simsboro Aquifer rupturing the mine, you know, you got to start pumping large quantities of mine to reduce the artesian pressure. And there’s all of these technical things that these people didn’t take into consider or didn’t even know about. I think the average—the average depth of a lignite mine in Texas at that time was like 70 feet.
DT: And they were talking about going two or three times as deep.
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JP: Well, when they showed you the map they didn’t show you the segment of it that was below 120 feet. I mean the maps that were put out not—well, BEG—BEG usually explained their maps but it was in a footnote down somewhere, you know, in the small print. But later on they were talking about digging deeper so the amount of available lignite is—is dependent to an extent on the—not just the extent of the deposition of the deposit but also in the hydrology and the geology and all of that and it’s considerably less than it appears to be on an ordinary map. There are places where paleo-sand channels or the paleo-rivers back in the Eocene or sometime have
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completely washed away the lignite. That’s why Alcoa didn’t expand its mine on down into Bastrop County. They had to go and get a new mine permit because there’s a stretch there three or four miles or wider where there’s not any lignite at all. It’s—a lot of this depositional structure and all of that and the history wasn’t known early in the game when the politicians were considering it. I mean Dr. Kaiser, Dr. Wormand, people at BEG, they knew about this, you know, and they—they talked about it. But people decided it was there, let’s just go get it. They—they thought it would be good for the economy.
DT: Talk about Cummins Creek as another kind of case study of lignite mining in Texas.
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JP: Yeah, I—I don’t—I don’t see that—can I summarize Camp Swift? I don’t see that the environment had one damn thing to do with the fact that Camp Swift was never mined except as a delaying tactic, a deterrent and making the prospective miners spend an awful lot of money in technical studies and what not to counteract your—your research. And I don’t—I don’t see—I mean I don’t even know why it’s called an environmental impact study. Cummins Creek is kind of a different situation. I—there—a good friend here in town, Rob Hunt, runs a downtown cabinet making business and he was doing some artsy craftsy sort of stuff in those days and he had a project to build a—I think a big cross or something for a church in Houston. I’m not s—I don’t remember the details and he—and the—they wanted it covered with ceramic tile and a lady by the name of Pat Johnson had lived in the—had a studio—a ceramic studio in Fayette—Fayetteville, yeah. And so she was talking to
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Tom—to Rob Hunt and she said do you know what they’re going to get—start doing down here in Fayette County? They’re going to strip mine us all down here and all that stuff and she said and we don’t know what to do about it, you know. And so Rob said well we—we’ve had some of that up here. We’ve been through that. His—his wife Jane and Rob have been supporters of BCEN [Bastrop County Environmental Network] —of BCEN of—of lignite watch and so they asked me if—if I would help her out a little bit. So I—they didn’t even have a flood plane map. They didn’t have any. They were where we were, you know, in 1979 in that there wasn’t—they didn’t have anything to even talk about impacts. So this was in the, you know, they have what they call a scoping meeting which people are supposed to—public meeting preceding the EIS people raise these issues that
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should be raised. So anyhow I got my maps together what maps I had of Fayette County which weren’t too many in the—Pat and I in—in the Rob Hunts living room floor stretched out our maps and again I was astounded that the size of that proposed Cummins Creek mine. It was like 10,000 some acres all the way to Ledbetter from Rob’s Creek, you know, I mean it was a—it was a huge thing and I said well—then I found out that it—it wasn’t our good old Bastrop County lignite. It was even worse. It was—it was Jackson lignite, which is just bad, bad stuff. A company was down there at the time dickering for uranium leases, you know, he’s going to burn this stuff and put it in the air?
DT: The lignite was hot.
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JP: Oh yeah. It was a c—a certain—well, you—you know uranium doesn’t go evenly at least as far as it’s strength doesn’t go evenly through—even where they mined at, you know, down in Karnes County down there they found a hot spot and they find it and they’ll jump. But WOLD, a company called WOLD, W-O-L-D, WOLD, Whole Wide World or something or other, they—they were trying to lease some of that land down there in Fayette County for uranium production. This is the stuff they were going to put in a power plant and blast off into the air, you know. You know we, you know, when you burn these things they’re—I don’t know what the term is, enriched, you know. So if you have a fairly minor amount of some substance, you know, one—once you burn it then the ashes and the—and the fly ash and that is two
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or three times—what the natural level of it might have been varies, but. So anyhow so we started doing what we could down there but I said it probably it—it’s a tough road to hoe really, a tough road to hoe. No, I went back to economics with U. It hadn’t worked before and I did—did an economic study which they may or may not have read. I don’t know, but things being different in Fayette County than Bastrop.
DT: What were you trying to show in the economic study?
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JP: That they didn’t know what they were talking about. They had used unrealistic data for fuel supply for fixed—it costs a lot more to build a lignite power plant than it does an ordinary coal power plant. Well, it’s—I don’t know. This isn’t all that big. I—I might say one thing about this though, some years—two years later after they got out of the mine down there they—the LCRA hired a fellow by the name of Mike Rollins who at one time had been, I understand, the head of the PUC to do a complete assessment of LCRA’s fuel requirements and projected future requirements. And I hate to say this but Mike Rollins took a hundred thousand or a hundred and fifty thousand dollars to say exactly what I said. Honest to God. Some of this is almost verbatim. I don’t know what—I—I—I, you know, I wasn’t more or less in the dark, you know, a lot of those projections were out of—out of the top of my head, you know. But I mean based on experience that—that we had had earlier, so they—they—the railroad commission for the first time turned down a mine permit application.
DT: Why did they turn it down?
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JP: They turned it down because it happens to be in the Giddings oil field. There were apparently, I’m not sure how much, but there were leases—oil leases that predated the lignite leases. There were a lot of rich people from—Houston had bought land in Round Top and Winedale and other picturesque villages, you know, in that area. What else? I don’t know. None of these things had anything to do with the environment. None of them had anything to do with them. In the mean time they—they got in some difficulties. An—an outfit called Morrison-Knudsen was their principle contractor on Powell Bend and would have been on Camp Swift and was on—oh, there’s some misbehavior down there. Primarily, they got in trouble because they
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couldn’t comply with a minor little known provision of the strip mining regulations, which required that these lands be required to AOC, approximate original contractor—contour—approximate original contour. They had hoped to introduce some new machinery down there because they were talking about mining to 400 feet down there, which had never been done in Texas before. So they went off to where of all places where they’d been mining brown coal, which is what they call lignite in Europe. F—the Germans have been mining for years. And they bought all this equipment. Most of it from firms who had supported Adolph Hitler like Krup. Anyhow, among these was an—was an apparatus called a bucket wheel excavator, which just dug up enormous, enormous quantities of brown coal—lignite, put it onto
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a conveyor belt and off it went. There was only one problem. In order to get that bucket wheel excavator down where it can do its work you have to create a big initial box cut and that box cut produced this huge pile of stuff. I don’t remember now. I think it’s in—this is an article from the Austin Statesman that I just discovered when I was doing a little research to find it. This—this pile was 12 stories high and two square miles in diameter, I mean circumference—I mean—no, in total acreage, two square miles. A member of the—I think—I think the—I think they were looking for an out. I think the railroad commi—commission was looking for an out because of these other things. I understand that Clayton is one of the oil operators down there that—it was Clayton. Clayton Williams and his terms and some other oil people of—
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of some persuasion, of some influence were—were down there. But anyhow, Mr. Buddy Temple who was on the railroad commission at a time who was fairly familiar with strip mining. We’d even discussed I think with his aid and some of them earlier on these other projects said that we called it Mount Soderbergh after Eluf Soderbergh who was the general manager of LCRA at the time. And it would have been the highest—highest point on—in Fayette County that—the top of that thing. So the railroad commission said—came back and told them well, we’re not going to disapprove. We’ve not—we’re going to—we’re not going to do anything as drastic as that, but you want to—we want you to figure out this problem of the approximate original contour. LCRA figured that it would have to be loaded up in trucks and hauled to Ledbetter, 12 miles and dumped into a—an end cut l—lake of comparable size to—to the one they were taking out of. And somebody estimated around 50
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million dollars to do that over a period of time. Of course they—they had all these problems with Cummins Creek, you know, which is known for flooding and all of that business. So they already had problems down there and then they had personnel problems. Eventually, they ended up firing Morrison-Knudsen and hiring—this is going on at the same time as the Powell Bend thing. They hired Pittsburgh Midway, which is a good company. The—they’ve really been mining up in Pittsburgh, Kansas. It’s not Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They’ve been mining up there for 125 years or something there and they have a good—good staff, good people. LC—LCRA hired a resident mine manager supervisor by the name of Don Buduky whom you could talk to. The principle problem all these people had was one of arrogance.
DT: How do you mean?
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JP: Well, they—they didn’t pay attention to people, you know, they just overlook people and that’s what got them in trouble because nobody was pulling their chain or—or in any way slowing down their untrammeled ambitions, you know. I mean the—if they had been—I don’t know. They think that nobody was going to find out that they had—I don’t know. They—they just at that time, but there was sort of a palace revolt in the LCRA and they hired a new—S. David Freeman, a new general manager. He stopped all lignite operations when he took over, hired Moke Rollins to do a study of their fuel needs and completely changed the complexion of the LCRA.
DT: What was the reason for this palace coup that you mentioned?
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JP: I don’t know. Jane Ann Morris oh, there’s one thing I—I must name before I (inaudible) is that this was a joint operation, Cummins Creek, Payette Power Project is operated jointly by City of Austin and LCRA and the City of Austin was supposed to pitch in its share of this and it ended up being like 230 million dollars. Out of this share of the money a group of—the City of Austin had to—yeah, from Cummins Creek, the City of Austin had to pass a bond issue. I think it was 86 million dollars. Don’t hold me to that, but it was in that neighborhood. And a small group of people called Don’t Buy It Austin including people who had been—Margaret Campbell, Jane
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Ann Morris, who had been in the Central Texas Lignite Watch organized this campaign to defeat the bond issue and they signed on Max Nofsinger, you know, who had been—who was on city council then but he’d been working on—help—not work—working with this, Bill Carter, I don’t know. I can’t remember the names of all those good people, but there was a handful of them. And they were crummy, stupid kind of publicity. I looked at them and I said you guys—I did the research—most of the research for them, but I didn’t do their publicity. One of them was that picture of this cow. Why is this cow crying? I said (?), you know, I mean just oddball. It worked. They defeated that thing. Well that came out of LCRA’s budget for Fayette County. The—the loss of that eighty some million dollars which put more
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pressure on LCRA to come up with more money. So the palace revolt—Jane Ann Morris later wrote a PhD thesis on the organization and functioning of LCRA. In there she has a chapter called The Coming of the Woman. There’s never been a woman. There’s probably never been a member of the LCRA board who hadn’t smoked cigars at the meetings. Anyhow, Pinky Wilson—yeah, I remembered her name, of La Grange who was the widow of John Wilson who had been a Texas State Senator, got appointed to the board and a small town—a small town justice of the peace candidate from up m—Marble Falls. She’s now the county—county judge up there. And three or four other people got together and said we’re not happy with the way this organization is going. I mean here they are wasting 230 million dollars. In Fayette County they’ve already spent however many millions of dollars and we haven’t got one calorie of heat or one—one megawatt, not one kilowatt have we got
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from—something is wrong and—and—and they were aided and abetted by Dave Freeman who had came here from Tennessee Valley Authority where he closed down some nuclear plants when he was over there. And so they just kind of reorganized things. They had to build a ladies room off of—off of their meeting room and they banned smoking cigars and—and it turns out that Pinky Wilson was not the little gamma, gamma, gamma, frat, frat girl she was. She is very sharp, very sharp. And a fellow by the name of John Scannon, which you may have heard of. He’s a developer in Austin. He was—he was a part of that group, so he reorganized LCRA or they gave Dave Freeman, you know, the power to reorganize and he did. Heads rolled and people got shipped out and it had become a kind of a sinecure LCRA over the years for politicians that didn’t get elected and you know different things. As I had—I—I
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mentioned the, you know, that—the, you know how that happens. Organizations just age, you know, senility and whatever that—and they changed it. I remember what—wasn’t it the first meeting that Pinky—I used to attend all the board meetings. At a—there was a—a s—in—in LCRA terms a rather small appropriation to be rubber stamp for boats, you know, LCRA obviously got those lakes in they need some boats. So everybody is going around yeah, yeah, yeah and people said how much—how much water do those draw, those boats you’re planning to buy? Nobody knew, you know. Oh, find the expert, you know, they recess theirs you know, the interruption, postmortem. Go find somebody who knows how much and the guy came back. They b—finally got a hold of some guy and he said she said those things won’t float on my river and they won’t float, they won’t float down there in Fayette County, said they—they draw too much water. It looks to me like you’re building ski boats for Lake Travis. And so they had to go back to the drawing board and reorganize but she did a number of subtle small things like that.
DT: At the same time that the Cummins Creek mine proposal was shelved I believe the Shaw’s Bend dam proposal was dropped as well.
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JP: It was approximately at the same time, yeah. I—I—I don’t know that much about Shaw’s Bend. I—I—of course its been there forever. I don’t know when that proposal first surfaced, but just last year I was down at the water development board and I was looking at some of their projects and I said I see Shaw’s Bend is not on—not on this map here and on this list of projects. And he said not right now. He said maybe—maybe it’ll be back on by the nest legislature. So apparently it’s still floating around out there in somebody’s imagination. I’m not sure that Shaw’s Bend in terms of—water wouldn’t—wouldn’t be maybe better in just sheer and I—I would be against it but just in sheer water development and one of them would be better than the four offshore things that they’re going to dig down there. Those things are going
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to lost—lose more water. The second largest use of water in—loss of water in the Colo—in the—in the highland lakes is evaporation. The evaporation rate here and it’s worse down there is over 60 inches a year. That’s—that’s two acre feet almost, you know. Those things are just going to lose water like crazy. I like our plan better but that’s a whole different subject. We think that we ought to recharge and use the alluvial aquifers. You know have the evaporation you have the evapotranspiration from the trees and stuff, but if you charge those things up in high water flows in—in
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the wintertime it’s not much evapotranspiration. The trees have lost their leaves. The fields will turn brown and—and its got—and it will give continuity of flow. Now well—well we have a plan to do that that I found out not too long ago that somebody else up in the Brazos River alluvium is working on—on a project similar to the one that we proposed because the Brazos is a lot larger than the Colorado alluvium.
DT: Do you have any thoughts about this larger plan that LCRA has to ship 150,000 acre feet of water from the Colorado Basin to San Antonio?
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JP: Well, I just came back the other day from a meeting of Tex-Check. It’s called now Texas Commission of Environmental Quality. Pflugerville wants a lake and they’ve arranged to buy water from LCRA up to 24 cubic feet per second I think pumping to fill a lake at Pflugerville which would be used partly for consumption, partly for recreation and what not. And I at the time I was talking to a guy up there. I said well, you’re going to get our water one way or the other in Bastrop County and it’s probably more desirable that you get our surface water rather than our ground water. So they’re going to—they’re going to get their lake, but there—there’s all these demands—upstream demands on the river. I don’t know. And then they’re all—
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all—all the qual—water quality impacts. You know they’re letting people do anything they want to to the river. I mean they let—TenRec (TNRCC) let the—let them pump contaminated water out from under Bergstrom Air Force Base into the river of all things. There was identified bad water area over there where they used to have engine build up and what not. Probably solvents and stuff mostly. And it—and the new airport it was paved over. It wasn’t going anywhere. It was there, hadn’t moved, but there’s some corporation that does—cleans up air force bases and they—they gave them permission to pump the contaminated water out from under Bergstrom into the river. Does that make sense? I don’t know. There—the city—the City of Austin is—had—well, they’ve kind of eased up now but they had, you know, like six major spills in ten months up there from the Walnut Creek Plant and—and the south—south Austin regional treatment plant.
DT: Sewage treatment plants?
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JP: Yeah, th—they had a real bad period there of—of le—of leaks. Some of them were for stupid things. BCEN wrote a—we wrote a letter to Austin City Manager (?). Like they didn’t have aug—auxiliary power supply. They had electrical failure, the pumps didn’t work and everything ran into the river. I mean something as basic as that.
DT: Like you were saying.
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JP: They—they—right, but they—they pledged to clean up in there. I think they’re probably doing better now, but there’s a lot of bad stuff in the river that comes from Austin. There’s something that I never heard of before. There’s a real serious buildup of silver in the river. Parks and Wildlife first encountered it in—in the sandbars and things south of Webberville. Down there there’s heavy silver. Now the City of Austin is trying to figure out where the silver is coming from. They don’t know. Some of these high tech non polluting industries are—some—somebody’s dumping silver into the river. Silver to be a problem has got to be pretty high. I don’t
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know exactly milligrams per liter but it’s not a real toxic substance but it’s getting up so that they’re worried about it and it’s kind of like that all the way down. The City of Austin now wants to use up to a hundred percent of their affluent for golf courses, the development of the old Miller Airport Complex, which is going to be a big development, parks, all that kind of stuff. They’re going to take their—their water. They said it paid for it once and they’re going to—they’re going to take it out of the river.
DT: Most of the water in the river down here is return flows. Is that right?
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JP: Right. In—in the—in the summertime or in the—in the early Spring and Summer when they’re letting water out of the lakes for irrigation of the rice farmers then—then most of it is what we call good water. And about October into March April depending on how much rainfall and what not there is in the—in the rice area down there the gates on Lake Travis are closed for about five or six months and—and the water quality is—gets—gets bad. Fortunately, it’s in the wintertime and it’s not quite as bad as if it were during the summertime, but in terms of the generations—the generating water supply, but when the—when the gates on the dam are closed there’s a 120 cubic feet per second of water—120 cubic feet per second of water that leaks
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around the dam that comes down Barton Creek that comes down Shoal Creek and Bull Creek and whatever those tributaries up there into Town Lake, alright? The City of Austin withdraws almost the same amount. A hundred and twenty cubic feet per second is what the City of—City of Austin draws out at the same time there’s water leaking in from these other sources that includes, you know, the—the power plant that’s down there, the one that’s been causing all the trouble and just general, Holly Plant, right. The general usage is—is the same equivalent. If you go across Longhorn Dam and the bridge is—Longhorn Dam as I did yesterday and look downstream a lot of times there’s no water in the river. There’s absolutely no water.
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Yesterday there was probably 15 or 20 cubic feet per second or something only that was running. So that’s what goes into the river and it doesn’t get anymore until we get to Onion Creek, which is contaminated. Every major tributary in the Austin area for some reason or another fails of meeting the state water quality standards, everyone of them, including Barton Creek. So until you get down to the Walnut Creek Sewage and Disposal Plant or the Goally Plant, you know, they’re—they’re downstream plants, there isn’t any water in the river, none at all. Only water in the river comes from storage in the alluvium on down out of the Wilcox Carrizo is a lot. The—the low—the critical low water level at the Bastrop gauge is coincidentally a hundred
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cubic feet—120 cubic feet per second. It’s the critical low water flow. If it weren’t for seepage from the alluvium and seepage from the Wilcox Carrizo it would be bad down there. You can go down there today and look up from the br—from the Utley Bridge and you can see parts of the river.
[End of Reel 2266]
DT: How was Powell Bend defeated and reduced in size and what were some of the lessons that you learned about how to fight these dams?
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JP: Well, Powell Bend was a series of leases almost expiring that had been obtained by LCRA back in the 50’s. And things were winding down at Camp Swift and they were kind of winding down at Cummins Creek, but this was still hanging there this—these leases were up in—right into the City of Bastrop; ETJ. They were close to things. They were between Camp Swift in the City of Bastrop. And we were able to procure the services of Rick Lowry which helped somewhat. Well, we had been talking to Rick off and on over the years and he had done some work for us, but he’s good at getting people together. He got the City of Bastrop and I can’t say too much about in support of David Locke who was the mayor of the city for a long time, a local druggist and—and solid opposed to lignite mining his whole career. And a
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couple of dentists, Gary Rasner and Dr. McDonald and just generally people, but see you—you—now Bastrop which had felt kind of, you know, insulated from all this lignite activity, here was Powell Bend knocking on their ETJ’s. So Rick let—rounded up the city, got them together and the—and the county and John McCall of the local cosmetics magazine and put together a pretty formidable little group and then used pretty much what our research that we had accumulated over the years. So anyhow in the middle of all this LCRA came and wanted to settle out of court. I had—in the—earlier I had filed an unsuitability petition, which suffered the same fate, my unsuitability petition. So we agreed to let them mine. I think it was 179 acres and they gave up five, six thousand acres of leases they abandoned and we also got them to—so—and for Texas rather innovative things. For instance, that’s the only mine in
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Texas that is—that is reclaimed with s—six inches or more of top soil. Most of these other people use a mix and then they get it approved by the railroad commission based on the greenhouse samples and stuff. Oh, we put bag houses in their thing, in their crusher and the tramp iron collector to—to keep air upsets. Also that was not only close to the City of Bastrop it was right next up against Highway 95 up there. So I was against it because I kept saying, you know, they’re going to nickel and dime me to death and—but they went ahead without me and they did the right thing. But later on after they had—they ran into problems with their contractor Morrison Knudsen.
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They fired them and installed Pittsburgh midway. They closed down for a year, completely closed down and their costs I don’t think ever got much below two dollars an MBTU and they projected, you know, something like a dollar and a quarter, something like that. So it was just a bad outfit, then they had to haul it all away to La Grange and the railroad was—the railroad was protecting its long haul and it charged those short haul people a lot of money to move, you know, short distance. So it—it was just a bad deal and—but it—the reclamation was good. They’ve done really good. LCRA is really—should be commended for their—their recrea—their reclamation. It—I—it’s still under bond. I’m not quite sure why it’s still under bond. One of the people there I think overgrazed it with some cows one time. There’s—there’s different reasons why it might still be under bond. Anyhow, in the meantime
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The Central Texas Lignite Watch reorganized and a whole group of people Ann Duraka and—and Gary Rasner. I think they’re related somehow or another and oh, Tom Duraka. I mean a whole bunch of people. Some new people came in and they wanted to expand the focus of the lignite watch so we now have Bastrop County Environmental Network, which is continuing. Anyhow, when the LCRA wanted to reopen the—the mine down there this—the new people got together, pulled out the old (?) agreement and so LCRA went away. And until the Three Oaks Mine reared its ug—ugly head we’ve had ten years or so of peace.
DT: One aspect to the opposition to Powell Bend that interests me is not just the number of people that were able to pull together to oppose it but the people they were and were politically powerful I gather to take notice. Is that fair or no?
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JP: You mean the people constituting the opposition?
DT: Yeah.
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JP: Oh they’re people like me and people like Maggie Lamberts whose been fighting this thing up until last night. There was a meeting last night at Neighbors for Neighbors in Elgin. Margaret Campbell, bless her heart, Vickie Wharton, a lady who was murdered somehow or other. The people tried to say it had something to do with lignite, but I think it didn’t. As I say all them bunch of beautiful women that have been steadfast in—we haven’t had more than two or three men not till Tom Dureka got involved. Two or three men in this whole thing that were steadfast. We had—Robert Schmidt was an e—an exception, but we’ve had—we—its been mostly women. And there—they are—they are housewives or whatever, you know.
DT: What do you think it is that makes women often leaders in environmental (?) .
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JP: Oh I don’t know. Rachel Carson was a woman. Do you know that Rachel Carson story? In 1960 and 61 all the fish were killed in Colorado River from Austin to the Gulf. Did you know that? It’s in The Silent Spring. Read about it. They never did—they never did decide what it was. I—when I raised these issues of catastrophic spills they just give me la di da. I tell them to go read that. They think it was some kind of a benzene solution. Unfortunately, the official final report investigation of that incident has been lost. I’ve been thinking ab—maybe if I can get access to Rachel Carson’s papers maybe she’s got a copy of it, which would be interesting.
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They’re in a little college—Chatham College up there in Pittsburgh. But anyhow that—so, the land that is now being proposed for mining has been owned by Phillips Coal Company, Shell Coal Company, Mountaineer Coal Development Corporation, City of San Antonio and there—and it’s been over the years.

DT: This is Three Oaks?
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JP: This is the Thr—land at Three Oaks. It was evaluated by Rollands for LCRA. He said don’t go for it, don’t do it, and one of the things he said you may—you may face some local opposition. But anyhow, that—I—yeah, so that’s where it is now. We’re—we’re still not shed of this lignite thing. Persistent, even when it doesn’t make any sense, economic sense or environmental sense. It doesn’t. They said in this EIS that fifty five hundred acres of Post Oaks Savannah, typical Post Oaks, will revert to previous pre-mining condition. Seventy years, seventy years, no the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department sent them a thing that said we don’t understand that statement because it has never been proved that the Post Oak Savannah can be reclaimed using native flora, native—native fauna. So I mean, you know, that was—
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that was in there. We’re—we’re going to be stuck with the environmental impacts of this a long time from now, a long time from now in our water supply, just in our general…
DT: What do you think the reclaimed lands at the Alcoa site look like now and might in the future?
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JP: Well, most of that—see since the City of San Antonio has owned a lot of that land for up to 20 years. There’s—most of it’s in what they call old field succession. It’s reverting back to previous—it was previously—it was a real fertile little farming community up there. It really was. That’s all been gone and it’s going to be replaced with Coastal Bermuda Grass. Not only does Coastal Bermuda Grass require hundreds of pounds of nitrogen and a hundred and eighteen pounds of phosphorous per acre per year, most of which will run off into the surface water, it provides absolutely no habitat for wildlife. None at all. It—it—as I said earlier, you know, it
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doesn’t produce viable seeds; small birds, these things—small rodents and these consumers of—of seeds and grass seeds and weed seeds. And they spray it with a defoliant to—to eliminate any forbs or any weeds or—that might provide, you know, some kind of sustenance for—for animals. Of course, deer won’t live there. Deer or browsing animals, they—they won’t live in a—in Coastal. Up where I live it’s—it is typical that—that—that we add or the people that grow Coastal add four hundred pounds of nitrogen per acre per year and that is within a half mile or less of the river. That’s—I worry about it up there but—but often these mine sites it’s—it’s going to—
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it’s going to run off. There’s going to be gully, stream banks, sheet and rill erosion. There’s going to be slick offs and what they call hot spots where toxic substance comes to the surface from the mine, high sulfur usually and other things and kills all the grass. You’ve got to go in with backhoes and dig it out and replace it with other water. And it’s got to be replanted, reseeded, more fertilizer added and all this is running into surface water and the ground water, yeah, we know. All of that new oxygen source that’s in the fertilizer and—and new nitrogen source primarily is going to cause the—the dissolved oxygen to bottom out, especially in dry spells and hot weather and the heat and water heats out, so there, but so far we’ve done the best we could.
DT: Explain the Longhorn Pipeline project and its recent history and possible fate.
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JP: Well, when it first came to us and when they first announced they were going to do an impact study, actually I think some of the litigants were demanding an impact study and I think the ju—was it Judge Parks who was handling the case out in West Texas said that it—it would be an impact analysis or something short of a complete EIS and we got to looking at it. It goes in Bastrop County from extreme northeastern corner to the extreme southwestern corner. It bisects the long way the whole county.
DT: Could you tell me where it’s coming from and where it’s going to.
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JP: Okay, it comes from the little town north of Houston, goes to a place south of San Angelo where there’s another collecting pipeline and eventually ends up in El Paso. I mean that’s the whole thing, but as you can—as you can see most of that area out there is not habitant—not inhabited by people. I mean, you know, people live there but Bastrop County is the—the largest county outside of the urban counties of—of Travis and—and to—Harris to—to receive impact from that. It—it—it goes through state parks, Busher and—and—and Bastrop State Park. It goes across the river. It goes through the a—alluvium, which we—we—we view as being the—as important as the river itself because it’s a storage area. It crosses several principle
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tributaries of the river and it goes within whatever the twelve hundred, twelve hundred and fifty corridor that they say everything will be incinerated in; a considerable population, people. And a lot of the studies that we saw that went into that were inadequate and we raised several issues having to do with how deep is it going to be and some of their projections of what would happen if it leaked and what—based on how big the leak was or for how—how long a period. And we think, you know, at least—in this we were joined and our friends were LCRA. They did—did a lot of good work on it and they provided some of the legal things. I think they copped out and eventually signed some sort of a—an agreement with the pipeline but they—they think we did a pretty good job in getting it to be, first of all, raised from
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one danger category to a higher danger category in Bastrop County and to put in different monitoring devices and to initiate several studies including a seismographic study where—where the pipeline crosses the river. And so we—we think we did good. I understand they’re running out of money now, but we did what we could.
DT: My understanding is that it was originally a petroleum pipeline.
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JP: Right, it was crude line. It was a crude line.
DT: And they want to convert it to gasoline?
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JP: To gasoline and what’s that bad substance that people are complaining about DSM male or whatever it is that is supposed to improve the combustion of gasoline but it’s disastrous for…
DT: (Inaudible)
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JP: …that one, that one, yeah, and they were—they have agreed not to put that in, which might help them, but it—it—it crosses the—the Wilcox Carrizo at shallow depths. An undetected small leak there could do a lot of damage and we got—it was fairly close to some of the—some of the aqua supply corporations pipe—wells—supply wells and so there they were potentially at risk, I mean they were at risk. I don’t know what you can say about it. It—I—I always make the statement and people get a laugh at me at the time, but I think this is anti Bush. I think it’s an anti Bush plot. What we’re trying to do, according to our President, is achieve energy
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independence. Well that’s a joke, but that’s what they say. Anyhow, so should we not be developing crude oil in the Permian Basin and taking it to refineries on the Gulf Coast freeing them of the demand—need to use Middle Eastern oil on the Gulf Coast. I mean we should be developing the Permian. We should be developing our oil resources out there and taking the lease. As it is we’re using foreign oil, putting it into gasoline pipeline and taking it eight hundred and some miles to El Paso. We’re heading it west and I—I—I think it’s a plot to undermine our Presidents energy program. That’s the way I see it. No, no really, really, think about it. It’s—but see there’s more to it than that. I figured it out. It’s—it’s tied up with NAFTA.
DT: How so?
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JP: It’s going to get to El Paso. There’s no market out there. I mean how much oil can—how much gasoline—they’re already supplying Albuquerque, El Paso, Phoenix, Tucson. There’s no real market out there for additional gasoline supplies. Maybe on the West Coast they can use some—some more, but that stuff is going to go and they—they—there’s a—they’re fiddling around with it there in the El Paso vicinity. The EIS was based on demand that it was going to cross a few acres of Fort Bliss Military Reservation outside of El Paso. That was the—the ostensible reason for the environmental analysis. No it’s going to go to Juarez. That’s where the market is. I think Juarez is what twice, three times as big as El Paso. Do you know from—from
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Tampico and from the Campeche down there to Northern Mexico we boarder areas where—where development is occurring in Mexico. This is further than it is from Baytown or they—this pipeline to El Paso and their—this—I think this all eventually or this gasoline eventually is—is destined from Mexico. I don’t know, but there must be some reason for it. They don’t need additional gasoline in El Paso, Albuquerque. They’ve got plenty of gasoline. I mean where is the demand? Why would you spend all those millions to rehabilitate a failing and failed pipeline when there’s no ostensible market—no apparent obvious market for it and run through environmentally sensitive – the—the Edgewood Aquifer, the—the Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer and, you know, Pederales River Basin and all that. Run through all of this environmentally critical habitat environment. And I—I don’t see—I don’t see a market out there. Maybe that’s part of the problems that Williams Company’s is having with their finances now. Maybe some other people have seen that too and said wait a minute, do we want to put money over there?
DT: How do you usually approach these problems in a general sense?
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JP: Well, if you—if you try to find a reason for most of the things that happen in this world you go crazy, you know, tomorrow you know, but I think basically given our economic system and our structure and that you’ve got to kind of go for the dollar. And—and I think that there—that the people who devise these environmental regulations, and I’m not saying they haven’t done good, in some cases they’ve done real good. The people who did that were well meaning people and what not, but the problem is that the people who are opposing them are devious in figuring out ways to get around; loopholes and what not. And I don’t think that our national government and our courts except for that first blush of environmental interests back there, you
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know, when we had the EIS’s for the—the nuclear plants you know all of that hassle and the—in some of the coal mines and other—other things. There was a—there was a period back there when the secretary of—of the interior was serious and the under secretary for mineral resources and what not wa—was really serious in implementing these laws. It seems to me that the whole trend has been to weaken them, find ways around them and not—not just by our present administration, although that’s pretty obvious. But it just generally the things have gotten watered out. You’ve got to—you’ve got to go for the economics because there’s not much environmental stuff left.
DT: Why do you think that environmental protection has become less popular in political circles?
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JP: Well…
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JP: Yeah, right, a lot of the—a lot of the big industries have conv—convinced a considerable segment of the United States population that environmental laws, regulations, studies and all that have a detrimental affect on job creation, you know, on economics and what not, which as I view it’s not true. I think good economics is invariably good environment and good environmental things are invariably good economics in the long run, you know, but there’s—there is—you—you talk to these people who’ve—that I talk to that I live with, you know, the private property owners, right? The wha—the—what do you call it? The—the well thing, you—the—oh the water under the ground is mine. What…
DT: (Inaudible)
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JP: The—the rule of capture, you know, which might have made mistake—made some sense some years ago. It doesn’t make any sense now, you know, it doesn’t. I don’t think—I don’t think it’s bad or fatal or anything. I mean as long as its one little guy with a well pumping, you know, another guy complaining about his well being drained. Now you know that’s—that happens in all kinds of societies everywhere. It only becomes bad when you get these huge people, what’s this, water trading and water marketing. That’s when it—that’s when you’ve got to worry about it.
DT: What is the problem there?
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JP: Well, the—the problem is that they have the power to limit supply and thereby the power to raise prices, to milk profits, to you know, the—they—they—big water suppliers see. Boone Pickens, you know, he’s—bless his heart. He’s my age. He ought to be retired. I mean he’s got a river, right? He’s talking about using the “bed and banks” to the Brazos River to transport his water from the—up North West Texas. He’s got a problem. He’s got the same problem the pipelines got. He doesn’t have any customers. On that whole river there’s one town of any size and that’s Waco. Waco has long since wrapped up its water supply needs. This—no—there are
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no—there’s no—there are no—so all the water goes down the river w—if it goes into the gulf that’s fine with me. It’s good for the shrimp, you know, it—but it’s something that we have mentioned earlier is that—that somehow or else these things are connected and straightening them out and ascertaining and determining the connections is—is impossible. It’s—it’s a lamp, oh, that’s why I try to stay out of the –the big picture. I—I stay close to home, you know, because it’s possible to isolate and—and deal with total dissolved solids on Big Sandy Creek. You can do that, but I can’t worry about total dissolved solids in California or nationwide or something like that. No I—I just try to stay close to home. I’m trying to get out of this business.
DT: What sort of environmental challenge do you see coming from the future?
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JP: Immediate in our…
DT: Yeah.
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JP: …yeah, yeah, I mean in the immediate time frame in an immediate area?
DT: Sure.
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JP: Well, I think this with the rivers is a serious threat, serious threat. Well, the combination of the loss of input, the loss of affluent and dominate and leaks and potential catastrophic releases and—and nobody cares, nobody cares. They—they—the—the—if you rely on Tenrac or TEXQ to take an overall look at the river and say this—this uses some things that need to be done. I mean they’re reacting. They react. Pflugerville’s request for enough water to build a municipal lake, which is a laudatory and nice thing. They should have a lake, but nobody is taking a good look to see. And my recommendation in Pflugerville was that they—they restrained their
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outtake from the river until periods when there is above 400 cubic feet per second going down the river. They can do that. That’s no big problem. And that they reduce—they reduce the aerial extent of their—of their lake and make it deeper so they’re not losing a thousand acre feet per year from evaporation, you know. There are a lot of things we can do. Texas is not even close to running out of water. I mean…
DT: Do you think the water shortages are orchestrated or if there’s…
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JP: …you know you—you—there’s a—there’s a book called the—The Prize about the development of the oil industry and I see a replication of all the chicanery, promotion and stuff that went on in the—in the birthing years of the oil industry. I see the same thing happening in water, really. I—I—I see it that way, you know.
DT: Can you give me some examples perhaps?
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JP: Well, it’s—it’s—I mean who’s going to buy stock in—in Boone Pickens enterprise out there; water supply? Who’s going to do that? No, people who know better aren’t going to do that. They’re talking about people who have been scared and people who have even said well my broker tells me this is a guy who just recovered from Enron. These—my broker tells me that we’re having this water shortage, so if I buy into water early, you know, boy I’m going to be alright. You know there’s no water shortage in Texas. There’s not even any possibility as long as—as we develop reasonable conservation and normal—most of the problems are a problem of
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distribution, right? That—and—and—and some facilities to assist in distribution. I mean maybe off Channel Lakes. I don’t know, but—but I th—I think—I think—I think it can be dealt with. You know when—when they were trying to run all this lignite down their throats by saying that—that the—their growth in central Texas—population growth and then thus the need for electricity is going to increase at nine percent per year. I said I don’t believe that, but that’s—they had, you know, they had the consultants and people, you know, with these—to say things like that. I went
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back and—and researched the—the prices and—of consumption over the last 50 years and it averaged less than two percent and this is during the period when everybody was buying a new electric appliance, you know, and—and—and the—and—and going from a narrow base. There should have been tremendous percentage in increases and this was in 1983 – 84. Do you know what happened in—in 1985 – 86 after the—the collapse of the real estate boom in—in Austin? Consumption dropped. For two years there was less electrical consumption than there was in the preceding years. And when they tell m—tell me that we have to spend all these billions of dollars and do all of this stuff to—for water I say everybody in the world doesn’t want to live in Texas. Everybody in the world doesn’t want to live in Travis County or Bastrop County, you know. These things are going to average out over—over the years and we’re losing money now. The City of Austin, right, is—is losing
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tax base. They—they’re losing (?) tax revenues, you know, so I think a lot of these things that happen are—they’re economics that are dollar determined, you know, they’re dollar driven and—and they seek to prey on us and we don’t know what the hell we’re doing and are incapable of understanding some of this stuff. Some stuffs pretty damn complicated, you know, some of it I need to read it several times in trying to figure out what the hell it says. But I—I—I think Texas will be alright. Yeah, I mean in terms of the water supply and energy supply and all that. I don’t know.
DT: Is there a place that you enjoy going to in the outdoors that gives you solace and comfort?
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JP: Well, one of my favorite places is the rock crossing on Wilbarger Creek. I like it there because there’s—no road goes there. And it’s a bunch of—this is a term I learned from lignite, renticular—lenticular sand stone boulders, big lentic—lenticular simply means lens shaped. And there used to be a w—a crossing there—a cypress crossing there—a water crossing on the way toward Austin and a guy hauled with teams of mules, one of these big rocks and locked off, I mean the water runs through them and under them and what not and it’s all a half a mile from the river so you can go in your canoe up the river. It’s also the only breeding population of American
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Bald Eagles in Central Texas. There are populations up on the—on the lakes but they’re seasonal, yeah, and there’s some down on the coast and they’re seasonal too, but, these have been up here oh 15 years now. So it’s—it’s called the Wilbarger—the Wilbarger—I’ve heard it called different things but, and the Wil—Wilbarger Swamps and what not, but it’s—it’s a good place. It’s going to be destroyed. Well, I m—I mean Pflugerville’s lake happens to—to drain in the upper reaches of the Wilbarger and all of that development. Highway 290 between Maynard and—and Elgin, all of that drains into Wilbarger.
DT: How does it make you feel when you see these things and other people don’t?
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JP: Oh I just think I’m (?) any particular insight. Mostly I get, you know, reinforcement from talking to people like Ann Mesrobian and nuts like that. No, there’s a lot of—a lot of good people that are—are thinking about these things. Our capacity to act is severely limited by failures; failure to enforce environmental loss. I mean some of these things, you know, they don’t even respond to on the Corps of Engineers EIS on the—the—the Oak—Three Oaks Mine up there. I went with some people over on Wil—Wilbarger and some other creeks over—the Big Sandy Creek and—and did a summary of protected federal birds that are protected by the Federal
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Bird Migratory Act. And oh this predates—predates the environmental issues. There’s—is the Migratory Bird P—Act and I think we identified some 17 or 18 duck and aquatic dependent birds that would be impacted by dumping mine water in the Big Sandy Creek and sent the list in signed by the President of the t—of the Bastrop County Audubon Society, you know, and they didn’t even react, you know, there was not even a response, you know, and these are federally protected birds.
DT: What advice would you give to young people who are concerned about these problems but maybe don’t have the experience that you’ve got?
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JP: I—I don’t think any—any of these problems are simple. I’m not saying they’re simple or that one thing is going to solve them all but, you know, you’ve just got to think small and pick on the little thing that you can deal with and go—hope that it has some impact and maybe it’ll get bigger and maybe, you know, maybe it—you’ll be able to expand your vision if you go from a little thing. But I think a lot of people who get upset about these big environmental issues they always up and layer the, you know, the—the thermal warming—the warming and the gases and all of this. They get involved in that. There’s nothing I can do about that. Nothing you can do about it. I mean you—you can send in 15 dollars to NRDC or somebody, you know, you can contribute some money, but you can’t do anything about these mega threats.
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You’ve got to worry about the guy that’s dumping stuff into the crick down the road from you, you know. And—and I—I—these funny headed environmentalists really I—I don’t have much use for them. I mean I’m—I’m not so much an environmentalist. I’m m—mostly just against progress. Well, if you look at some of the examples of progress lately you say mmm, right? There’s some really wild things going on. Maybe we need to change the political parties. That’s for sure, bad, bad. The—the Republicans—every time a Republican is elected things go to hell, you know, it—it happens. Is—I said this is the day after the election. What happened? Things went to hell.
DT: What’s the difference?
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JP: But becau—the—the Republicans suffer from several really fatal, fatal flaws of logic and—and philosophy. They’ve got the idea that some big guy over here who owns a factory if we give him a tax break he’s going to create jobs, you know, but it’s the guys out in the parking lot that are creating the jobs. It’s not the guy that owns the plant. Even Henry Ford, bless his old an—union hating self, you know, he—he said he wouldn’t—he wouldn’t build a car that couldn’t be afforded by his workers, you know. When—the Republicans have got things upside down and there are a lot of people who have told them that; John Galbraith and other people told them about that. But they honestly think that—that these jobs and things are bestowed from above and they come down. They don’t really understand the basic things that—it’s the little guy with money in his pockets spending it and I don’t mean in a—in a irresponsible tax break either. But I mean that—that—there’s—it creates jobs in the environment.
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I’m sorry I was going on, but who was it? Was it Citizen Jones, Citizen Jones. I think it was Marx. Somebody said Citizen Jones says that we can’t—we can’t give the—the workers a pay raise. It’ll destroy the system and there’s only so much in the pot, so we can’t take out more than is there, you know, and so Marx reflected on that and he said I will agree with Citizen Jones if there’s only so much in the—in the pot but on the other hand some people have larger spoons than others, you know. Some people get more out of the pot. One thing that I was thinking about a while ago when—when I was talking about the water quality in the river, things got so bad in
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1985 – 86 period in Austin that the Governor created a select committee on water quality in the Colorado River; had hearings over a period of several weeks. And an organization called CCC, Clean Clear Colorado, was formed and I did some research for them. I did a paper called Stream Under Stress or something. I don’t even have a copy of it anymore. A fellow by the name of Bob McCurdy whom you may have heard of, Bob McCurdy, he just bought a—he didn’t buy it, he just rented for like five million dollars a spring and creek out near Ozona, somewhere out there. Where he got five million dollars I don’t know. Bob McCurdy is a good guy. Lives in a shack down on the river, but—and Les Appelt, A-P-E-L—A-P-P-E-L-T, who owns the Colo Vista Country Club down here. They were the principle organizers. The river was so bad cows wouldn’t drink out of it. The—it was matted with all kinds of algae and stuff.
DT: This is from sewage discharge from Austin?
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JP: Yeah, high levels of potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous from the overbuilding of the sewage system. The City of Austin is three or four hundred millions dollars col—pretty much collected that—corrected that in the—the rivers been very good but it’s beginning to slide back again. But that Clean Clear Colorado was instrumental in getting the Governor to call that select—committee select hearing of water quality in the river. And I think it did quite a bit of good in getting various people who had interests that they didn’t perceive to be common to get them—to get them working together.
DT: By closing this do you think that that’s a lesson that you have to hit that sort of a tipping point where there’s a crisis, there’s a scandal, there’s a celebrated thing to get people’s attention and to get problems cured? What does it take?
00:46:44 – 2267
JP: It seems to be that way. I—I’ll tell you Mr. Macy. What is Macy’s name? It’s the water development board, who is the representative to the Region K gro—water region. He’s the representative from the water b—development board that comes down. We’d had a meeting over at the McKinney Roughs and it was publicized. A lot of these things are never publicized and it was publicized and there was like four people showed up. And there was 20 LCRA staff there and every—everyb—the state agencies were represented. Parks and Wildlife got in there and I think four people showed up. Myself and two other guys are the people that I brought, you know, and somebody said why—what can we do? Why is this and—
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and Macy said, you know, he said the river is not on fire, you know, referring to that was the Detroit River or one of those or the Chicago River or something. The river has got to get on fire before anybody will come out to a meeting. We had a meeting last week. This is something you need to know about. The Corps of Engineers and LCRA are working on a programmatic EIS for the entire length of the Colorado River and they had a scoping meeting at McKinney Roughs last Thursday or so a week ago. Twenty people showed up, 10 – 15 and I leafleted it all up and down the river to people and I think there was maybe—maybe 15 or 20 people, but they’ve got all kinds of things planned. I asked the Corps of Engineers’ guy I said are you from the
00:48:35 – 2267
channelization, the paving over or the damming up division of the Corps of Engineers? He’s one of the good guys. He’s one of the environmental guys. But see there’s I think maybe 20 people, 15 or 20 people. They had another meeting in Buchanan—up in Lake Buchanan the night before and I think there’s—a dozen people showed out—showed up there. The river has got to be on fire. That’s it.
DT: Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but thanks for keeping us alerted in the meantime.
JP: Well, my—my advice is think small, you know, worry about the gravel pit around the corner. Global warming is going to happen, but brighten the corner where you are.
DT: Thank you so much.
JP: Thanks a lot.
[End of Reel 2267]
[End of Interview with John Prager]