Public invited to help guide drilling code

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Two meetings this week offer Denton residents a chance to get involved in the city's ongoing overhaul of natural gas drilling regulations. UPCOMING MEETINGS

PANEL DISCUSSION ON GAS DRILLING• When: 8 to 10 p.m. today• Where: Room 130 in the UNT Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building, located on the west side of Avenue C between Mulberry and Hickory streets in Denton• Why: The meeting is an extension of the Denton Stakeholder Drilling Advisory Group• On the Web:

PUBLIC MEETING ON DENTONGAS CODE REVISIONS•  When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday• Where: Denton Civic Center, 321 E. McKinney St.• Why: The city called the meeting to hear concerns about natural gas drilling as it begins the second phase of a code review.•  On the Web: page=1507

A panel discussion tonight at the University of North Texas will feature people involved in other cities' drilling code reviews. A public meeting Thursday night at the Civic Center is a chance for residents to offer feedback to three members of Denton's new drilling task force.

The city is entering the second phase of its code overhaul after passing a collection of changes last summer that included higher permit and inspection fees and larger buffers between gas wells and homes.

The second phase is expected to focus heavily on regulations to address the industry's health and environmental effects, including possibly requiring vapor recovery units and air quality monitoring as well as limiting chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, according to the city.

The panel discussion today is being organized in part by City Council member Kevin Roden, who announced in July he was working with UNT professors on a research project that would involve forming an advisory group to serve alongside the city's official drilling task force. The panel discussion is an extension of that process and will help as the advisory group - which is still forming - starts its work in coming weeks, Roden said.

"We wanted a nice balance of education and opportunity for citizen involvement and input," Roden said. "Education on the front end will produce more informed policy suggestions. We figured a good start would be to talk to people who've had to deal with this for a while in the Barnett Shale region."

The speaker panel includes former Dish Mayor Calvin Tillman, an outspoken industry critic, and Deborah Rogers, a member of the advisory committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas who was quoted in a recent New York Times article that challenged the gas industry's profit and production claims. Other featured speakers are Tammi Vajda, a former member of Flower Mound's Oil and Gas Advisory Board, and Jim Bradbury, who served on Fort Worth's drilling task force.

Roden acknowledged the speaker panel tilted toward people who support more industry regulation.

"The people who tend to get a bit more fired up on this issue are people who are more critical of this industry as it relates to inner-city drilling," Roden said. "That's probably why it's falling in that direction."

The city called Thursday's meeting to hear residents' concerns about gas drilling and production, said Darren Groth, Denton's gas well administrator.

The three citizen members of Denton's official task force - Tom LaPoint, Vicki Oppenheim and John Siegmund - will lead the meeting.

LOWELL BROWN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is .

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