While drilling for oil on the Howard farm near Lancing, Tennessee, on Friday, July 19, 2002, extraordinary underground pressure was encountered at around 2400 feet. The well suddenly began gushing light gravity crude oil at up to 750 barrels per hour. Although such a spectacular gusher used to be cause for celebration and made for great footage in movies like "Giant", it poses a serious environmental threat in real life.

Oil spewed from the well under unprecedented pressure
Oil is 43° gravity light amber crude, almost natural diesel fuel.
Oil booms were deployed in the creek
Booms provided by the Tennessee Oil & Gas Association had been strategically placed at Clear Creek over 36 hours before OSC arrived

The Company immediately implemented its emergency spill control plan and notified government agencies about the incident. Extra containment pits were dug and pump trucks were called in to haul away the oil. Booms and absorbents were deployed at nearby Clear Creek to contain the oil, utilizing emergency equipment from the Tennessee Oil & Gas Association (TOGA) which maintains specially equipped trailers for such emergencies at strategic locations in central Tennessee. Word of the gusher spread quickly among Association members, who began showing up to volunteer their help, working through the night.

Flaming oil shot more than 200 feet above the ground

Smoke from the conflagration was visible for miles

On Saturday morning, July 20, 2002, a spark from a bulldozer ignited oil on the ground and flames quickly spread to the well. With the well still gushing over 200 barrels of oil per hour, together with gas, the flames were beyond the capacity of local fire crews. The Company called Boots & Coots, well fire specialists in Houston, Texas, and within two hours their crews and equipment were en route to the site.

Bill Goodwin, of the Tennessee Oil & Gas Association, praised Pryor Oil Company's quick action in containing the oil spill and minimizing the environmental impact.

On Sunday, July 21, 2002 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency arrived in the person of Barbara Caprita, an EPA On Scene Coordinator (OSC). She promptly served a Notice of Federal Interest in the site. Shortly afterwards, following a meeting with the Boots & Coots supervisor (without Pryor's presence or input) she served Notice of Federal Assumption of the cleanup, declaring the Company's efforts to be "improper". Though Pryor requested an explanation of how its efforts had been improper, none was ever given. Having appropriated the well, she ordered all clean-up activities stopped (apparently, doing nothing was the proper thing to do), ordered all Pryor Oil's personnel and TOGA volunteers off the site, and drove off to check in to a motel 40 miles away. Pryor personnel and volunteers who had worked ceaselessly for more than 36 hours containing the incident were forced to stand helplessly idle while oil spewing from the well burned in excess of $15,000.00 an hour. What wasn't burned flowed onto the ground throughout the night, soaking into deep crevices that would ooze oil for months afterwards. Thus began the government sponsored Howard-White Circus Extravaganza.

Barbara Caprita, On Scene Coordinator (OSC)

Stunned disbelief when EPA's OSC orders containment and cleanup to stop and leaves for the night

Mobile restaurant staffed full time by union chefs serves up fine dining

At 10:00 a.m. on Monday, July 22, 2002 the OSC called the first of her many meetings to order. People who knew oil wells and how to quickly and efficiently clean up a spill were allowed to attend but were largely ignored. People who knew about getting on the government payroll, however, were handed their carte blanches and authorized to start running their tabs. The first order of business was to build a two lane road across the farmer's pasture, to accommodate the heavy equipment that was needed to build the two lane road. With two-lane access across the pasture, the well site was easy to get to, after you turned off the one-lane county road that got you to the property. With hundreds of contractors now swarming onto the scene, the road jams made it inconvenient for people to get to town for meals, so a fully equipped mobile restaurant (no mere taco trailer, but a full-blown 18-wheeler) was set up, along with a battery of porta-potties including, of course, special handicapped accessible porta-potties.

While the lucky contractors who got on the government tab were doing whatever they could to look busy, local residents and officials were aghast at the destruction wrought by the EPA. Damage from the oil and fire paled in comparison. The OSC, oblivious to anything other than the grand display of manpower at her disposal, exhibited her leadership skills by making everybody stop at periodic intervals to attend meetings.

Yup, fire's out, guys.

On Thursday, July 25, 2002 the fire was extinguished by the local volunteer fire department. It received no payment for doing so. Boots & Coots, which had been placed on the government payroll when the EPA took over the wellsite, was paid over $800,000.00.

On Tuesday, October 15, 2002 Pryor Oil conducted an open flow gas deliverability test on the well. At the time, the well remained shut in with pressure at 520 p.s.i.g. The test showed the well capable of producing in excess of 5 million cubic feet of gas per day. As part of a plan to salvage the well and the millions of dollars worth of recoverable reserves of gas and oil that it had tapped into, Pryor Oil undertook construction of a new gas pipe line, despite intractable weather conditions and difficult terrain. The Company planned to complete the pipe line by the end of the year.

The EPA, however, had other plans for the well, and Pryor Oil was forced to file suit in Federal District Court to prevent the EPA from attempting to plug and destroy what was potentially the most prolific well in the history of the Eastern United States. Ultimately, Pryor had to sell the lease, and its other Tennessee properties, for legal fees. The government has now begun efforts to obtain reimbursement from Pryor Oil Company for the bloated waste perpetrated by OSC Barbara Caprita. Whether or not they succeed in putting the company out of business, maybe enough people will know the truth so the government lawyers saddled with the task will at least experience some discomfiture. And, if enough people are watching, maybe they'll even do the right thing.

And the damage to the environment? None, except for the EPA's terraforming of the pasture and woods, and a couple spoonfuls a month of nontoxic organic oil that leeches from crevices in the ground when it was allowed to soak in after the EPA stopped Pryor's clean-up and containment operations.

Is there any question why the United States is more dependent than ever on foreign oil? Is there any doubt the United States will be 100% dependent on foreign oil if the EPA has its way? Is there anything troubling in the fact that a Barbara Caprita can evict you and lock you out of your own property, without necessity of any court order or warrant? Is there anything troubling in the fact she can then spend millions of dollars destroying your property and you have no right to ask a court or even an administrative judge to stop her? Is there anything troubling in the fact that after she has taken your property and destroyed it your government can sue you for the millions of dollars she spent doing so, when anybody else could have done it for a few thousand dollars? Did you really think there was something in the Constitution that would protect you from any of this?