Flower Mound sued over 'lax' drilling laws

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on July 31, 2010 at 10:12 PM

Updated Sunday, Aug 1 at 12:27 AM

FLOWER MOUND - The fight over drilling in North Texas is headed to court.

This weekend, concerned residents filed a lawsuit against Flower Mound, alleging its laws are too lax and may not be following state guidelines.

There are fears drilling could still go on - even with a ban in place.

After clamping down on new drilling in Flower Mound, activists are now working to close a loop-hole of sorts, dealing with natural gas companies that applied to drill before the recent moratorium.

Few Texas towns have been tougher on natural gas companies than Flower Mound.

Yet, despite a moratorium on drilling and strict new city leaders, activists, like Ginger Simonson, fear gas companies are still moving in.

"The main concerns are that ordinances are no longer strong enough to protect residences in densely populated areas," she said.

The fear focuses on a pasture, surrounded by homes and a school.

Titan Energy applied to drill there before the town's recent moratorium.

City law allows it, as long as it meets basic requirements, like keeping the rig several hundred feet from homes.

That doesn't sit well with Simonson, who feels each well should get approval from the public and city leaders.

"An applicant can come in and basically have an oil or gas well put in Flower Mound without any kind of public hearing - no zoning requests, nothing of the sort," she said.

She's now filed a lawsuit against the town to stop the permit, something Flower Mound plans to fight.

The city points out its drilling laws are among the strictest in the country.

So, if the energy company follows the rules, it shouldn't need city approval or have to give public notice.

"We'd like a judge to take a look at it, make sure it makes sense," said Simonson.

She's hoping a court will decide whether the town's oil and gas laws conflict with state law.

Meanwhile, an advisory committee is looking into strengthening the laws dealing with natural gas companies.

Certainly, many in town support drilling, leading city leaders to emphasize they'll choose a course, appropriate for all residents.

E-mail: jbetz@wfaa.com

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