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6 Investigates: Blackhorn Environmental receives permit renewal from Railroad Commission

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Posted at 10:14 AM, Apr 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 18:24:35-04

ORANGE GROVE, Texas — Texas Railroad Commissioners voted Tuesday to renew Blackhorn Environmental Services' permit for another five years.

Blackhorn Environmental Services, based in Corpus Christi, was first granted a permit to operate by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) in 2015. After some delays, the building process was completed in early 2019. The facility, near Orange Grove, handles non-toxic oil and gas waste. Residents, fearing strong odors and noise from heavily loaded tanker trucks, began voicing opposition to the facility back in 2013, when it was first proposed by the owners of Sable Environmental.

Neighbors to the facility gathered as the RRC voted and while they say they thought the vote would be two to one, they expected new RRC Commissioner Jim Wright, who lives just a few miles from town, to vote with the neighbors.

Jennifer Green dabbed her tears, while her mother, Gail, vented with their lawyer on the phone--about the fumes from the waste facility that borders her property.

"Within five minutes, my throat's burning, my nose is running, my eyes are running and my chest is tight," Gail Green said. "But I'm supposed to believe when they say 'Oh, it's non-hazardous."

Blackhorn released a statement that read in part:

"We will continue to operate the orange grove facility with the highest of safety standards and environmental protections for the betterment of our community, employees and industry."

Neighbor Tara Jones says she doesn't know what community they're talking about.

"It's very scary knowing that my family is living next to this and knowing that the Railroad Commission is allowing this facility to continue to operate essentially unchecked," Jones said.

Blackhorn says it is the most inspected facility of its kind in the state. Allen Green says any inspecting the Railroad Commission does is suspect."

"You know you can't breathe the air. They take your quality of life away. They run those big trucks up and down the road," Jennifer Green says.

Among those big trucks, are trucks from EEES Energy Solutions, LLC. A company that, according to records filed with the RRC, sent 25 loads of waste to the Blackhorn facility between April and December of 2020.

And if Texas Railroad Commissioner Jim Wright doesn't still own part of EEES Energy Solutions it's news to the State of Texas, which shows no record of a sale; and news to the employees at EEES Energy Solutions, who told KRIS 6 News Tuesday that he does own a piece of it. Though he's never there.

We visited Jim Wright at his home to ask him about it. Not long after he voted "yes" on Blackhorn's permit renewal via zoom.

KRIS 6 News has not yet heard back, but Wright did make a statement during the meeting saying staff had performed multiple, detailed inspections and found no "serious" infractions.