Grand Prairie drilling fight vote set for Tuesday night




Posted on January 17, 2011 at 7:23 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 17 at 8:19 PM

GRAND PRAIRIE — The latest fight between gas drilling companies and residents is taking center stage in Grand Prairie.

City Council members will vote Tuesday night on a new ordinance that would force drilling activity farther away from homes and people — a proposal that has at least one major drilling company threatening to walk.

The photograph posted on a Westchester neighborhood blog sums up the concerns of some residents of south Grand Prairie, who — within the past few months —  noticed drilling rigs sprouting 500 feet from their back doors.

In Rosemary Reed's case, it was a fracking pond being constructed just a few feet away from her backyard fence.

Susan Read, another Westchester neighborhood resident, was alarmed by an army of drilling rigs and thumper trucks moving into the neighborhood this past June.

"I went down to City Hall that night. I just went down there and I said, 'What is this? What are those?' When I spoke to them after the meeting, no one seemed to know anything," Read said.

What was going on throughout Grand Prairie was the placement of 24 pad sites drilling 60 wells, and —  according to officials with Chesapeake Energy — the generation of $9 million in royalties for the locals.

But a groundswell of complaints has prompted a city drilling ordinance proposal pushing the distance limit from 500 feet back to 1,000 feet of buildings, parks and homes.

If the ordinance passes, Chesapeake Energy said it will devastate the company's drilling plans in Grand Prairie. 

"We think a majority of residents here want the drilling," said company spokesperson Laura Patton.  "The new ordinance would curtail future drilling in Grand Prairie and the city, schools and residents will stand to lose $240 million in revenues."

But those living next to the drilling activity feel they are ones paying the price.

"It's not about the almighty dollar," Reed said.  "It's about our health; it's about our environment; it's about our homes, and if they vote for that, they are not protecting us."

Chesapeake Energy says complaints from only a small, vocal fraction of upset residents are propelling the new drilling ordinance.

Those opponents say many more people would be upset if they really knew what's going on behind the scenes at Grand Prairie City Hall.