For Immediate Release: Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Contact: Kim McKeggie
Scott Royder, Texas PEER 512.441.4941
HOMELAND SECURITY OF TX PRAIRIE DOGS IN QUESTION
TNRCC Flip-Flops About Plans to
Exterminate Lubbock Critters
Austin, TX- Eradicating one of the largest black-tailed
prairie dog colonies in the Southwest may no longer be the prescribed
solution for groundwater contamination at the Lubbock Land Application
Site (LLAS), according to the latest correspondence from the Texas
Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC). This new determination,
made in a letter released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (Texas PEER), marks a complete reversal of the state's
position in a mushrooming dispute in this west Texas community that
is starting to attract national attention.
On June 3, 2002,
TNRCC officials sent a violation notice to Lubbock Mayor Marc McDougal
blaming the prairie dogs for "creat[ing] conditions which could possibly
lead to groundwater contamination." TNRCC gave city leaders sixty
days to draft a compliance plan that would "control the prairie dog
population across the LLAS."
The order caused
considerable consternation as federal wildlife officials and conservationists
who objected to incorrect assumptions and an absence of any scientific
corroboration supporting TNRCC's determination. Seven weeks later,
TNRCC began to backpedal. In a letter dated July 22, TNRCC investigator
Patrick Cooke claimed that the agency "has never stated that prairie
dogs have caused groundwater contamination at this site."
of the water table came from "application of treated sewage to the
land." The state agency no longer considers the removal of prairie
dogs to be the only satisfactory mitigation measure. "TNRCC will be
attentive to all possible solutions, providing that protection of
the groundwater resources beneath the Lubbock Land Application Site
Despite this disavowal
by TNRCC, the agency has not yet amended their notice of violation
to the city. As late as last week, Lubbock City Council Member Frank
Morrisson sent the following E-mail: "Like it or not, TNRCC (a very
powerful state agency) has told the City of Lubbock we must remove
the prairie dogs from the land application site. We don't see any
flexibility in their directive."
"The notion that
prairie dogs are causing contamination is just plain loony," said
Texas PEER Director Scott Royder. "When asked to justify their position,
all TNRCC officials could do was shrug, " continued Royder, who noted
ranchers who graze cattle on the LLAS have for years attempted to
justify removing the prairie dogs. "This smacks of a shady deal between
the city and compliant state regulators."
"If the prairie
dogs are indeed out of the crosshairs of Texas state officials, Lubbock
officials haven't gotten that memo yet, said Eric Wingerter, PEER's
National Field Director. "What's more, TNRCC has yet to justify this
nonsensical plan with anything more than a grin."
prairie dog is a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered
Species Act. Texas PEER has asked TNRCC to clarify its new position
with Lubbock officials.
PEER's letter to TNRCC.
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· P.O. Box 1522; Austin TX ·
441-4941 · txpeer@PEER.org