Gas drilling revisions do not address public health concerns, members say
Members of the Denton Stakeholder Drilling Advisory Group said the city’s draft of a gas drilling ordinance fails to grasp and address the public’s concerns and that it sacrifices public health and safety for gas drilling development.
The group of concerned residents met Tuesday night at the University of North Texas to review a draft of the gas drilling ordinance released by Denton city officials last week.
About 40 people discussed ways to improve the 42-page draft, which is a revision of the city’s current ordinance.
Advisory group leaders said what the public wanted and what city leaders submitted produced mismatched results. By the end of the meeting, members decided to draft their own ordinance to submit to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission by Nov. 1.
With city leaders expected to send the ordinance to the commission in November and to the City Council in December, advisory group members said time is running out.
“Our backs are against the wall now and we have to decide what we want to do quickly,” advisory group chairman Adam Briggle said.
Group members said the draft also fails to adopt many of the ideas adopted by Barnett Shale-region cities such as Southlake, Grand Prairie and Flower Mound.
Briggle called the city’s draft a weak document and said it takes a minimal approach to address concerns.
He said the revisions give the appearance of change but lack substance.
According to city officials, city staff spent the last six months revising the ordinance based on recommendations from a City Council-appointed gas drilling task force.
That official task force developed 40 recommendations for the new ordinance, but Briggle said he believes the draft does not sufficiently take into account recommendations from the official task force or the independent advisory group.
In a slideshow presentation, Briggle gave six examples of what he believes the draft lacks in regard to the public’s health, safety and welfare.
One example illustrated that the advisory group and the city’s task force recommended that gas drilling companies submit private water well testing results from wells within 1,500 feet of drilling sites.
However, the draft does not include that recommendation.
Briggle said the draft is inadequate and it’s up to residents to tell the council that more should be done.
John Cabrales, an assistant city manager, said the draft is a work in progress and that the city’s task force and leaders will listen to what the public has to say.
However, Cabrales said, no matter which way the council decides to vote, there will always be people who are for or against the ordinance.
On Oct. 2, city officials made the revisions public and gave residents 10 days to submit comments on the new rules on the city website.
Friday is the last day to submit comments.
The city also has scheduled another closed session and a work session with the gas well task force Oct. 22.
“We have received a considerable amount of input,” Cabrales said. “There will be many opportunities for people to express their thoughts and give suggestions to the city throughout the entire process.”
Cabrales said the city plans to make public residents’ comments about the draft.
JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is email@example.com .