Brewster County rancher and attorney Tom Beard was charged with assault on a public person and criminal trespass on May 14 for an altercation at the Pumpco pipeline storage yard west of Alpine, near the entrance to the Sunny Glen development.

Beard appeared before Justice of the Peace Gilbert Valenzuela, who released him on a personal recognizance bond.

In an affidavit of probable cause for arrest, Deputy Doug McIntyre said that he was dispatched to the yard “in reference to a criminal trespass to commercial property” and found Beard.

The criminal trespass charge was enhanced when McIntyre found a pistol in Beard’s pocket during a search at the time of arrest. Beard has a concealed carry permit for the gun but did not tell McIntyre that he was carrying the weapon during the interview, the deputy said.

The assault charge stemmed from Beard allegedly stomping on the foot of another deputy.

McIntyre said that an employee of Pumpco, whom he did not identify, reported that the company had to stop operating because Beard would not leave the property.

He said that Beard claimed the right to be on the property because he is a member of the Brewster County Groundwater Conservation District and was investigating a water well on the property.

McIntyre said he negotiated with Beard for more than an hour before deciding to arrest him. Deputy Mauricio V. Cordova said in a statement that he came to McIntyre’s aid when Beard refused to be handcuffed and Beard “used his right foot to stomp on my foot twice with his heel and sole of his cowboy boots.”

Several protestors and others witnessed the event Thursday, and a group of protestors gathered outside the yard again Friday. John Hollis held a sign saying Beard was a hero.

Hollis said it was McIntyre who was belligerent and that Beard “accidentally” stepped on Cordova’s foot.

Sheriff Ronny Dodson was out of town during the incident, but responded to questions about the incident on Friday.

“Doug tried to accommodate him for an hour and 28 minutes,” Dodson said. “He [Beard] said he had a right to be there.

“It’s very unusual to see the water board do this,” Dodson said. “The board could have taken administrative action.”

Dodson said the issue was “something personal with Tom.”

The Beards have “Don’t tread on me” signs posted at their office across from the courthouse, and have been outspoken opponents of the proposed pipeline that Pumpco has been contracted to build.

“He [Beard] was very nasty with my deputy,” Dodson said.

Liz Rogers, who represents Beard, said he “was on the property in his capacity as a member of the Brewster County Groundwater Conservation District. We look forward to defending against the charges before a jury of his peers.”

The groundwater district representatives took action after several complaints from residents that Pumpco was operating without proper storm water permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Reports circulated late last week that TCEQ had shut down the facility.

Pumpco Operations Manager Adam Nitsche said the TCEQ “did not shut us down. We have proper permitting.”

He said Pumpco stopped work voluntarily.

“We are not here to cause problems,” Nitsche said.

The TCEQ issued a press release later saying “no information was available on any authorizations that might exist for the site.”

It then issued a second release saying storm water runoff “is not under the authority of the TCEQ,” that it is a federal issue regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Virgil Clark, chairman of the groundwater district, said he, Beard and district director Conrad Arriola had gone to the site to get information so that they could send a letter informing the company that it needed a groundwater permit for the well, which was pumping water, not handling storm water.

He said the groundwater districts were created to assure everyone has equal access to water in the aquifer.

Clark said that a property owner drilled a well at the site in 1998, and that his group was investigating whether the new operator should have a groundwater permit and whether the well was within GWCD requirements.

He said they did not how much water was being pumped and for what purpose.

Pumpco offers city aid

By Jim Street

City Manager Erik Zimmer said this week that Pumpco Operations Manager Adam Nitsche had offered to help the city any way he could, and that the city might be able to take him up on the offer.

Pumpco is the company engaged to do the installation of the controversial Trans Pecos Pipeline moving natural gas from the Waha “hub” near Coyanosa to Presidio to meet a Mexican pipeline at the border.

Nitsche did not return calls requesting comment.

Zimmer said one area that the company could help the city is in laying water and sewer lines, including to the Pumpco yard just west of Alpine.

There was controversy this week over a water pump the company is using on the site and whether it has the proper permits.

Some merchants in East Alpine were interested in getting an east side sewer collector so that they could get on the city’s sewer system. With its experience and equipment, Pumpco could provide a lot of pipe laying for the city. 

Zimmer said that when the land was annexed about five years ago, the city made agreements with property owners in the area that they would be able to hook up to the city sewer system.

But since hookups would be at the property owner’s expense, many found it less expensive to keep a septic system, Zimmer said.

The company also has offered to mulch tree limbs destroyed in last winter’s ice storm, Zimmer said.

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