Last night I attended the UNT faculty lecture series on Gas Drillling. I spoke with Darren Groth who was Arlington’s previous gas well coordinator and asked him if the new fees being asked of the drillers would be deducted from royalty checks and he said that permit fees are added to the costs of production.
In the City Council work session, Firechief Crowson presented the proposed changes needed to for our relatively new, evolving urban drilling industry that he called unique, but manageable. He said that rural practices were not appropriate for our densely populated area of 370,000 residents. He likened the life of a building to the life (cycle) of a gas well in that once permitted, it is up to the fire department to oversee and be able to be respond to events. He was clear that the drillers are not the enemy, but rather a partner and that his department needed real time information so that for example the fire inspector could be present during fracking. Because I know that the planning department’s gas well coordinators do not inspect the drill sites during active times for safety protocol, this new oversight will not be redundant, and gives us the needed coverage. The planning department will focus on compliance and the fire department can focus on responsiveness.
Chief Crowson eloquently stated that in all the prevention efforts, that systems do fail and man made or natural events can overcome the best efforts and our responders will be using industy best practices. He said that providing a safer community is good for the industry. Mayor Cluck asked how many times the fire department has gone out on drilling site calls and while Chief Crowson was to get back to him with an answer, last week I asked a fireman who told me about one hundred calls a day.
Chief Crowson asked that the industry pay for six additional firemen and reminded folks that the same model of having extra security for special events should apply to gas wells to ask the drillers to pay. Councilwoman Wolff inquired if an inactive well needed to be covered in the fees and was told that once it is plugged, that the drillers no longer need to cover it.
Another thing citizens may not realize about these gas wells is that with our new ordinance in place, there will be one person at city hall administratively approving wells from their desk with the stroke of a pen if it meets the 600 foot setback as required in our ordinance.
The days of our City Council hearing long (2 minute) citizen speeches begging not to put those wells by their homes are long gone. The new ordinance did away with public input on (additional) gas wells on existing padsites. So one day when Arlington residents decide enough is enough (air pollution/risky aging wells), they won’t have a voice until we remove the “administratively approve new wells provision” off the new ordinance.
In the meantime, hopefully that person will catch some snap to reject all permits until at least the price of NG goes back up so that someone is managing our minerals and trying to maximize them. If drilling has to happen, we need to…
A) at least know about the new wells being approved behind the scenes and
B) time the production of these wells at favorable market price conditions.