If Denton’s revised ordinance for natural gas drilling and production was a debut painting, the black cloth covering it was never removed Monday night.
Instead, Darren Groth, head of the city’s gas well inspection division, told residents and the members of the gas drilling task force that the revisions would be posted on the city’s website today.
The city amended its ordinance in 33 places, based on recommendations from the task force and feedback the city staff sought from four legal groups, Groth said. From today through Friday, Oct. 12, city officials are soliciting comments on the revised ordinance from the public.
“Like the Environmental Protection Agency, which says in its rule-making that no agency has perfect knowledge, the city doesn’t have perfect knowledge,” Groth said. “We need input.”
The city is seeking input from residents and from the natural gas industry, particularly if the city’s rules are seen as setting a precedent, Groth said.
All five members of the task force were briefed in a one-hour closed session with city attorneys before moving to the council chambers to hear comments from the public Monday night.
Even though the ordinance was revised to reflect the task force’s work — the group met for more than two months earlier this year and voted 40 recommendations in all — the task force gave no formal feedback to the city during the open session.
Even with the new rules sight unseen, about a dozen of the 40 or so people who attended the meeting gave comments to the task force.
Many residents asked that the setbacks between natural gas production facilities and protected uses be increased to 1,300 feet, a distance being considered by the city of Dallas.
Others asked that insurance requirements be as stringent as Flower Mound’s, and require operators to carry about $25 million in liability insurance. Others insisted that all future meetings covering natural gas development policy and permits be open to the public.
Resident Rebecca Hinojosa told the task force and city staff that the work was important because it was about protecting people’s health.
“Clean air, clean land and fresh water,” Hinojosa said. “You don’t have anything in your city if you don’t have those basic human rights.”
Other residents gave suggestions not for the ordinance itself, but for the process. Adam Briggle suggested that if certain requested revisions weren’t made, the city should take the time to explain why. Rhonda Love asked that all the comments made during the public comment period be published so that residents could see what others are saying. Elma Walker advised that the city regularly revisit the rules so that Denton’s ordinance stays current.
“We must keep the long-term effects in view and be thinking of future generations, including our children and our grandchildren,” Walker said.
Following the current comment period, the gas well task force is scheduled to meet again Monday, Oct. 22, for a closed session and a work session.
The same week, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission will hold the first of two meetings on the revisions.
The first time the City Council is scheduled to discuss the revisions is during a closed session and work session Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The earliest the city could approve the new rules and lift the moratorium on new drilling and production permits is Dec. 4.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
ON THE WEB
Denton’s revised natural gas drilling and production ordinance will be posted today at www.cityofdenton.com/gaswellinspections . Residents and industry members are encouraged to read the ordinance and provide their comments online from today through Oct. 12.