Fort Worth activists and gas companies oppose new drilling rules

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by CASEY NORTON

WFAA

Posted on October 18, 2011 at 6:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 19 at 11:05 AM

FORT WORTH -- Crowds of Fort Worth residents are expected to sound off about natural gas drilling at Tuesday's city council meeting.

After talking about changes to a drilling ordinance, the council will listen to people's concerns.

Revisions to current rules touch on everything from setbacks -meaning how far the wells will need to be placed from homes and schools - to emissions and waste disposal.

It looks like activists and gas companies can agree on one thing, neither likes the new rules.

Jim Ashford thought revising Fort Worth's gas drilling ordinance would help the situation, but he's worried after reading through the 60 pages on the city website.

The revised rules reduce mandatory setbacks from pad sites to homes and schools - from 600 feet to 525 feet.

The changes could also lift the current moratorium on injection wells - that bury the slurry of water, salt and fracking chemicals inside the city.

"Most of the revisions, nearly all the revisions protect the gas driller or give them more leeway," said Ashford.

The gas industry says that's not true.

Chesapeake will speak against the new rules at the public hearing. According to its website, tighter restrictions would push pad sites away from protected waterways into neighborhoods.

The one issue where activists and gas companies agree - one public hearing is not enough.

Esther McElfish wants a face-to-face meeting to hammer out the differences.  She leads the North Central Texas Communities Alliance which has fought for tighter drilling restrictions for years.  She says the council is not going into neighborhoods to get input from voters.

"One of our biggest concerns is they have cherry picked this,” said McElfish. “It's pick and choose the items that staff and council wanted to address, instead of addressing the whole ordinance. It all works together."

Council is scheduled to vote on the new ordinance next week. The Public hearing is expected to last well into the night.

E-mail cnorton@wfaa.com

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