Tom Beard arrested for “trespassing” pipeline property
May 14th, 2015 under Top Stories
By SASHA von OLDERSHAUSEN
ALPINE – Tom Beard, a board member of the Brewster County Groundwater Conservation District, was arrested on grounds of criminal trespassing this afternoon.
Beard’s arrest occurred at the site of Pumpco Inc.’s 23-acre equipment yard, located in west Alpine. Pumpco Inc. is the construction company tasked with building the Trans-Pecos Pipeline.
According to eyewitness Suzanne Bailey, Beard allegedly approached the site to inquire about the company’s use of a groundwater well located on the property.
During a regularly scheduled meeting of the groundwater district earlier that morning, Bailey had alerted Beard and others on the board to the fact that Pumpco, Inc. workers had retrofitted an electric pump on the well, and as of Wednesday, were filling their trucks with water from it. Bailey lives adjacent to the property owned by Pumpco, Inc.
“They were very interested and curious,” Bailey said. “Several of them wanted to come out and look at the site.”
Bailey said that she and three of the groundwater conservation district reps that included Tom Beard, Virgil Clark and Conrad Arriola, drove to the site, where they toured around in an attempt to locate the project manager.
“Tom Beard kept saying he wanted to see the guy in charge, and someone said they had called him and he would be there soon. It took two-and-a-half hours for the person to show up,” Bailey said.
She added that the Pumpco, Inc. representative who finally did arrive refused to give Beard his name. “The Pumpco guy called the sheriff, and Doug McIntyre showed up. McIntyre proceeded to tell Tom to get off his property. Tom Beard maintained that as a board member of the water board, he had the right to inspect a well that they thought was illegal, and if necessary, issue a fine,” Bailey said.
Finally, according to Bailey, Virgil Clark allegedly told Beard that they could identify the Pumpco, Inc. rep from his license plate number, which Clark had written down. Beard agreed to turn around and leave, at which point McIntyre proceeded to arrest Beard.
“Tom Beard resisted arrest and stomped on his foot a few times,” Bailey said. “And he yelled an obscenity.”
Shortly after 1:30 p.m., Beard was ushered to the county jail. He was released at around 7 p.m. on a personal recognizance bond – meaning he did not have to pay bail – issued by Justice of the Peace Gilbert Valenzuela.
Conrad Arriola, the manager of the groundwater conservation district, who had left the scene prior to Beard’s arrest said of the occurrence, “We went out there to see if we could find a project manager to get information so that we could send them a letter. They’re operating a well that does not have a permit on it. We’d like them to first register the well and obtain a permit.”
He added, “If it was a residential well, even though ownership has changed, if it’s now for commercial use, they need a new permit for that.”
Additionally, Arriola said that all “non-exempt wells” – that is, wells that are capable of producing more than 25,000 gallons per day, or approximately 17 gallons per minute – require a meter for operation. He added that it was possible the well at the equipment yard site was indeed a non-exempt well.
“We found some information from when the well was drilled in 1994, and we believe it could produce up to 40 gallons per minute,” Arriola said. “We don’t know if that’s changed or not. But we would ask them to do a pump test.”
If Pumpco, Inc. does not comply with the groundwater conservation district’s formal request, they are subject to fines of up to $10,000 per day. Furthermore, the groundwater conservation district is entitled to take additional punitive measures.
“If they’re not complying, we could get a sheriff out there and shut it down until they came.”
But, he added, that is the last resort. “We want to work with them and be professional about it.”
But in an unlikely turn of events, it was the groundwater conservation district that was penalized.
According to Brewster County Groundwater Conservation District rule 13.4, first cited by the Alpine Daily Planet, Beard indeed had the right to remain on the Pumpco, Inc. property.
The rule states: “An agent or employee of the District may not enter private property without the permission of the landowner or the landowner’s agent except to inspect a permitted well and to ensure compliance with the District Rules. If a landowner or a landowner’s agent refuses to allow District agents and employees to enter the property to inspect a permitted well and to ensure compliance with the Rules, the Board may revoke any permits held by the landowner previously issued by the Board or deny any permits pending before the Board.”
Pumpco, Inc. could not be reached for comment. The Brewster County Sheriff’s office declined to comment.
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