With City Staff's Support, XTO To Take Its Gas Drilling Permit Fight to City Hall in Two Weeks

MountainCreekLake_flickr.jpeg
Flickr user: Schlüsselbein2007
Mountain Creek Lake in far western Oak Cliff, where XTO wants to plant Dallas's first gas drilling operation.
Patrick Michels is really our expert on the subject of XTO Energy's application for a specific use permit to drill at Hensely Field in far west Oak Cliff, which the City Plan Commission denied back in late October. But since Patrick's out of pocket at the moment, I'll direct your attention to the city council's January 12 meeting agenda, because that's when XTO will make its case directly to the council in hopes that it'll overturn the CPC's nay and grant the first gas-drilling permit within the Dallas city limits.

As you're no doubt aware by now, in September '07 the council approved an ordinance requiring an SUP for anyone wanting to gas-drill in the city. At which point the city agreed to lease XTO the land near the decommissioned naval base for gas drilling and production -- land that's less than 900 feet from a residential area. Angela Hunt, for one, is all for waiting a long while before giving XTO the OK. Hunt, who was in Flower Mound earlier this month asking the Oil and Gas Board of Appeals to deny Keystone Energy's request to drill near Grapevine Lake, wrote on her blog in November: "I agree with Dallas City Councilmember Neumann that we need to defer these requests until an independent taskforce can fully vet the safety issues involved."

But XTO wants to get going now; hence the agenda item 12 days into the new year. And despite CPC's denial, city staff is all for moving ahead with a 10-year permit. The council docs follow, but here's an excerpt:
The applicant has submitted the following plans for the Specific Use Permit application: an existing conditions plan, an operations plan for the drilling phase, and an operations plan for the production phase. The operation plan for the drilling phase addresses the natural-gas drilling. The plan shows the location of several temporary construction trailers, water tanks, mud tanks, and drilling equipment. A drilling rig with an approximate height of 160 feet will be on site during this phase. The building official will consider this as a temporary structure, similar to a crane used in constructing a tall building. The SUP conditions will limit the drilling phase for 90 days per calendar year, because drilling (with lighting) will be done 24 hours a day, and noise could impact the surrounding uses.

There are two methods for drilling: an open-loop system and a closed-loop system. An open-loop system uses a lined mud-pit to hold mud. The mud-pit may be a safety hazard and may have a negative impact on adjacent property. In contrast, a closed loop system uses tanks to hold the mud. There are fewer environmental concerns with a closed-loop system and the applicant is providing a drilling phase plans that will include a closed-loop system. The applicant is proposing to drill approximately 12 wells on site in an area that is 70 feet by 170 feet. ...

Staff has reviewed the applicant's request for a SUP for gas drilling and production and is recommending approval for a time period of 10 years with eligibility for automatic renewal of additional 10 year periods, subject to the attached plans and conditions. The City Plan Commission had concerns regarding the potential health of the general public and discussed holding the case under advisement until further studies/reports were concluded by the City of Fort Worth and TECQ. The recommendations from the proposed reports are projected to be released next year. The applicant requested that the City Plan Commission vote on the zoning request because of their obligations under the lease agreement. As a result of the applicant's request, the City Plan Commission recommended denial without prejudice.
Hard to say what XTO will do if the council denies the permit. But only yesterday it was reported that both Keystone and Titan Operating LLC, both denied drilling variances by Flower Mound, has taken that city to court. Gas Drilling Agenda Item
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