"Frack is Whack" and Other Highlights From Gas Drilling Task Force's Public Hearing

Categories: The Environment

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Photos by Leslie Minora
Anti-drilling activists show their support for one of the public speakers.
At last night's Gas Drilling Task Force public hearing at Dallas City, citizens' outcries ranged from polite thank-yous to pleas for tighter restrictions all the way to full-on verbal assaults that made fracking sound like the onset of The Apocalypse. Several of the people who spoke at the task force's first public hearing in August took the mic once again last night, tweaking their arguments for or against drilling. The task force's recommendations to council are as big a mystery now as they were then, though the group's expertise has been honed by more than 30 hours of presentations from drilling experts.

A young, mostly college-aged crowd lined the back wall and sat in the not-quite-packed audience with signs that read "We can't drink money" and "Frack is whack." A few of them spoke out against drilling. They were respectful, for the most part, quietly holding the signs.

Drilling industry proponents asked the task force to balance the needs of everyone in the room. Perhaps most notably, a representative from Chief Oil & Gas, the company currently in the process of obtaining permitting to drill because of a unique set of circumstances, said they've been the first company to drill in other cities, and they're comfortable being the first here. "An ordinance should not be overly restrictive," Kristi Gittins, vice president of Chief, told the task force, calling the city's current ordinance a "good one."

She added that the North Lake location on the verge of receiving permitting is an ideal location for exploration because pipelines are already in place. And who knows, she said, drilling in Dallas might not prove to be economically worthwhile -- but there's only one way to find out.

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Raymond Crawford helped create the citizen's recommendations, which include 3,000-foot set-back distances.
Task force chair Lois Finkelman clarified for the audience that the task force does not play a role in the permitting process.

Charles Yarbrough, vice president of rates and regulatory affairs at Atmos, took a turn at the mic and explained that Atmos runs both distribution and transmission pipelines, miles and miles of them, throughout Dallas. Yarbrough said he simply wanted to make people aware of that before ordinance language is crafted. He hopes the updated regulations will take into account the pipelines that go largely unnoticed so as not to have "any unintended adverse impacts" that affect Atmos customers. Duly noted.

Jennifer Land called the city's current prescribed setback distance of 300 feet a "mockery" of the citizenry. "Nobody wants to flee their home because it's full of drilling emissions," she said. "We are not hysterics like the gas industry wants to label us."

If Dallas is fracked, Symantha Raven said, "I'm going to be terrified to drink my water." She warned of the health risks of drilling, listing various forms of cancer. "They're going to die," she said of people close to drilling operations. "You're going to have to replace all those workers with more workers."

"Urban drilling can be an inconvenience ... but it is not deleterious to human health ... and it is certainly not a matter of life and death," said Arlington city council member Mel LeBlanc, who focused on the economic benefits drilling has provided his city.

"TIME!" people screamed when his four minutes were up. "Let's not be rude," Finkelman warned the crowd, many of whom opted for jazz hands after she asked several times that they stop clapping.

Next up was Steve Fort of Trinity East, one of several drilling companies that currently hold leases with the city. "We're people too," Fort said. "We want to protect our families too." Fort urged the task force to consider the economic impact of drilling. "We believe that there are large reserves of natural gas," he said, sounding more confident about that than representatives from both XTO and Chesapeake.

Fort called the 3,000-foot set-back distance recommended by a coalition of citizens "not a regulation" but an impediment.

Vocal proponents of the 3,000-foot set-back distance included Claudia Meyer, a loyal task force meeting attendee and Mountain Creek resident. "Preserve the environment," she said. "It's what people want when they choose a place to live."

"I'm hoping we can be a leader in the nation and set the gold standard," said Raymond Crawford, who helped shape the citizen recommendations.

After the meeting, a bunch of rumpled young people packed into an elevator, some still holding signs; one read, "Keep your money out of our water." A young man played guitar as he walked through the halls of City Hall. "Good job," one told another in their group. The drilling task force crowd had been unknowingly Occupied. The crew headed back to camp.


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73 comments
JOSHUA
JOSHUA

Drink only bottled water....and frack away freely.....jobs, fuel, industry.....vs, drinking water....NO CONTEST...drink Diet Dr. Pepper.

Robert Damora
Robert Damora

The local television stations, the DFW CBS affilitate in particular, must stop accepting money in exchange for broadcasting  the pro - drilling commercials.

TheExpertCES
TheExpertCES

The task force has discussed possibly requiring operators toinstall technology designed to cut air emissions. They’ve discussed requiringoperators to erect sound barriers to block noise, and to landscape well sites.metal fabrication

 

Guest
Guest

I would like to comment on Arlington city councilman Me LeBlanc's statement that, "Urban drilling can be an inconvenience".  An inconvenience is finding out that your car battery is dead and you have to find an alternative way to get to work or having to wait an additional 30 minutes in the waiting room for your  dentist appointment.  One can hardly claim urban drilling to be a mere inconvenience when for the next 30 years you are breathing foul smelling fumes in the air, compromising water quality, dealing with truck traffic, hearing loud, strange noises that keep you awake at night, losing money on your life investment of a home purchase, and compromising your health and overall quality of life.   I doubt Mr. LaBlanc knows firsthand about this little  'inconvenience' that Arlington residents are suffering through because he doesn't live within 1,000 feet of a drill site. 

Mknappdal
Mknappdal

I went to this meeting last night and could only listen for the first hour. The industry people with an education and background in Barnett Shale drillng and production have data, facts and experience in their trade.

The opposite group were more emotional making all sorts of claims, short of human extinction. It reminded me more of a high school pep rally than an important fact finding municipal govenment meeting. Lots of noise, but little illumination.

Here are the facts. Dallas is located at the economic, geological and geographical edge of the Barnett Shale formation and production. A north-south basin bounding fault runs from Denton to Hillsboro through the escarpment area of far west dallas, approximately underneath Dallas Baptist University campus and following I-35 west of Love Field. West of this fault is the Fort Worth Basin that contains the Barnett Shale and the gas reserves. East of the fault is 95% of the City of Dallas with no gas reserves.

Relax ... Your "Not in my back yard" wish is granted.

mkDal

farmer Paul S
farmer Paul S

Does a farmer let the foxes have a voice in how he designs his chicken house?

Fg
Fg

<insert about="" activists="" anti-drilling="" drilling="" here="" joke=""></insert>

Paul
Paul

I wonder if anyone is considering the end of game scenario.

At the beginning there is lots of money to be invested chasing the prize and if successful everyone is happy with their respective checks.

At the end there is only the liability of plugging the well and restoring the wellsite.  And likely the operator will only plug the well and the surface owner will have a significant liability to restore the surface.

Edit: I very much like the poster in the picture that appears to claim that fraccing causes "cancer, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome ????, heart disease and stroke". I wonder from where they got their data?

WCGasette
WCGasette

Hopefully, it won't be for 30 years...there's so much discussion about the short-term life expectancy of these wells. That's why we hear so much about refracking.  It keeps those all-important investors interested. But from what I've been told there is only 1 well in the Barnett Shale that has been refracked, so far.  The word on the street is that they just can't get as much blood out of that turnip as they originally projected. Oh, and LeBlanc is definitely living on his own planet and it looks weirder and weirder up there.

Paul
Paul

Are you sure that it isn't an ancient continental margin?  Further to the south and west, the difference in surface exposures in the Austin area indicates a close to 1000 ft differrential on either side of the Balcones Fault Zone.  After all, it is the division between the Ft. Worth Basin which has been uplifted and the East Texas Geosyncline which some consider to be a failed rift.

I believe that the escarpment to which you refer is the White Rock escarpment which is late Cretaceous.  Just to the west of the White Rock Escarpment is the "Grand Prairie" which is primarily Eagle Ford Shale and Woodbine Sand.

As you go further west, there are similar escarpments of progressively older Cretaceous units and finally an exposure of Pennsylvannian age rocks in Palo Pinto and Jack counties (IIRC).

WCGasette
WCGasette

Relax?  There's the ticket.  If you were only there last night for the first hour... you missed a  LOT.  There is plenty of potential for drilling and fracking in the Mountain Creek area...we know that because leases have already been signed.  That's a FACT.  There were a lot of young people at the meeting and they spoke very emotionally about the issue...but there were a few of us there who have actually experienced it. You missed that part.

heart and soul
heart and soul

You sound like a gas industry person to me.  There is plenty info on the dangers of gas drilling. You don't want to drill here great. You have my fracking permission to leave town. BYE!

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

You pretty much just summed up the situation brilliantly.

Mariana Griggs
Mariana Griggs

Paul,I think you are on to the truth, industry will have to specifically be told what to do EVERY step of the way. Also, if we make a mistake and do not include something in the rules beforehand, well, they won't have to adhere to it later. Summation: Think hard before giving permission. Maybe industry is just an unruly teen hell bent on using all the technology available to ruin their own future. I want to keep them on a tight leash, you know teenagers, maybe drillers too, they don't even have total frontal lobe development yet (that's your "conscience").

True, that there is no 100% correlation between fracking chemicals and metabolic syndrome or diabetes, but think for a moment that it is difficult to draw any correlation/causation when we are exposed to so many chemicals every minute. Industry, including gas drillers, cosmetics, shampoo and plastic makers, does not make it any easier when they are the only ones training the scientists doing the science to make the correlation.

It's not conspiracy, start reading your labels. It does not take rocket science to figure out that these chemicals are endocrine disruptors that eventually cause your body to self destruct or your immunity to become null and void.

I feel happy for those who made the posters. If you only scratch the surface at least you can believe that we can get these chemicals out of the system. I am a scientist, a very depressed one. At this point, we might at well just pour the fracking chemicals into our water since we are so polluted we might need an apocalypse just to come back to reality.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

For clarity....There is a lot of money and promises going back and forth under the table between city and industry. No resident in Dallas will receive any check. Residents are not part of this transaction. The liability begins the day the industry takes control of the land set aside. A myriad of things could happen from the beginning to years in the future. The term 'restoring the surface' has a very narrow definition.

Angrywhitey
Angrywhitey

You don't know that! Some leases have clauses in them that make the gas company restore the property.

pak152
pak152

oh really because he hasn't attended every minute of every meeting his opinion is to be discounted? leases may have been signed but can you refute his other facts? and yes the young speak emotionally because they have bought into the idea that environmentalism is like a religion. you and others don't want to hear facts that contradict your beliefs.

pak152
pak152

perfect example of what I describe earlier. you basically are calling the individual a stooge and liar while at the same time offering nothing to refute what he stated. you're obviously a member of the emotional group that he described

pak152
pak152

and the antis are just another type of fox

Paul
Paul

Marianna, thank you for seeing that an oil and gas lease has certain contractual aspects to it.  If the lease does not address a particular issue, then the lessee may do anything that is not contrary to the written terms of the lease or to prior torts.

The lessee is the holder of a property right.

Paul
Paul

"restoring the surface" has no meaning until and unless it is defined either by ordinance or lease terms.

The mineral lessee has the right to use as much of the surface estate as is reasonably necessary for the development of the mineral estate.

Paul
Paul

I have worked in the Oil and Gas industry in Texas for many many decades.

True some owners are able to negotiate surface restoration clauses as part of the easement burden on the surface estate.  However, try enforcing that against a bankrupt lessee.

I have also worked as a consultant on the restoration of private lands impacted by oil and gas development.

As I said, the endgame of oil and gas development is a bigger and harder problem than the initial phases of leasing and drilling.

Edgar
Edgar

Almost all of them do.  As for the other point, if the operator still exists and is solvent, the RRC will compel the operator to plug.  In the unlikely event the well's operator has dissolved or is no longer solvent, the RRC has a fund dedicated to paying for plugging costs of absentee operators.  The permit fees gas companies pay to the RRC pays for that fund.

heart and soul
heart and soul

Oh am so sorry pak152, feeling left out? OK. you are a stooge too. Better now?

WCGasette
WCGasette

How close do you live to a pad site?

WCGasette
WCGasette

Mineral and surface owners want the strongest protections possible when slick water hydrofracking of horizontal wells is being conducted in very close proximity to their communities. That would be the sheriff protecting the neighborhoods.

WCGasette
WCGasette

That's the reason we need a Moratorium on all of it.  There are so many issues that are not being addressed in these leases.  Once all the issues are all pointed out...sometimes that means it should be unlawful to do it.

WCGasette
WCGasette

Why don't you offer up an explanation instead of offering up criticism. That's a lot more helpful.

Edgar
Edgar

The burden of proof is the burden of proof, and it's on the operator.  Like I said, all the landowner/homeowner has to do is stand and say "I object to the application."  They can choose to do more, but they don't have to.

And like I said, I AGREE that the hearings ought to be held closer to where the land is.

You're even more confused than I thought about the taking issue.  It's painfully obvious don't understand the rule of capture, which is the most basic aspect of Texas oil and gas law.

WCGasette
WCGasette

Edgar said:

[...]Keep in mind that all a landowner has to do is appear and object to the exception.  That shifts the burden of proof to the operator, which in most cases will be hard-pressed to prove waste or confiscation. [...]

Really?  The landowner?  You mean the "homeowner" with a front and back yard? So when the gas operator shows up with their Senior Attorney and 5 additional attorneys all ready to examine and cross-examine the citizens as if it's a full-blown trial how does that make a citizen feel? Maybe intimidated a little??  The one man (not an attorney) who represented one of our community groups in Austin for a Rule 37 Exception Hearing last winter (along with the 5 protestants) had to present a strong case to the hearing examiner and did so on the citizens' behalf.  So, while the operators' attorneys were based in Austin, citizens had to pay for hotel rooms and fuel costs AND missed work  ~ all on the citizens' dollar. It was an all-day hearing. Oh, and our community group had to pay $200 for the transcript. There is still no decision on that one. Your statement that all they have "to do is appear and object to the exception," is not the reality, sir.

Edgar said:[..]I didn't see any argument that a Rule 37 exception is a "'taking' via eminent domain."  You're still confused.[...]

What argument?  There's no argument...if you don't show up for whatever reason, you lose and they can "take" your property aka the gas.  You seem to not understand that this is all an unfair playing field. Have you attended a Rule 37 Hearing before?  Or are you purely being academic about all of it?

Edgar
Edgar

I don't see anything weird or wrong with the notice.  It tracks the statute, which is what a legal notice should do, and what it has to do to have any legal effect.  The bold all-caps typeface gives the landowner the long-and-short of it, and they make it easy for the landowner to respond...by mail, fax, email or hand-delivery.  I do think agree that a regional office should be set up to make it easier for landowners to protest in person.  As for what the options were, I gave you several in the previous paragraph.

Keep in mind that all a landowner has to do is appear and object to the exception.  That shifts the burden of proof to the operator, which in most cases will be hard-pressed to prove waste or confiscation.  That means the landowners wields enormous power.  If it doesn't work out an alternative arrangement with the operator, the operator has to respect the spacing rule - no exception granted.

If landowners are all really the poor illiterate peasant-serfs you make them out to be, perhaps you should educate tham.  But you know what?  The reality is that most landowners just don't care enough to protest an exception application, even if it were right down the street.

By the way, I didn't see any argument that a Rule 37 exception is a "'taking' via eminent domain."  You're still confused.

WCGasette
WCGasette

I beg to differ with you on that.  Torts can be very bad for "the people," especially when they favor "the corporations," or the "wealthy people."  Our laws should level the playing field for all. In recent years, torts have made it difficult for many to be in the  arena.

WCGasette
WCGasette

When referring to the Rule 37, it's in reference to the "issue" regarding Rule 37 which is, in  fact, the Rule 37 Exception.  (This is not a court of law in the comments of this blog post.)  It's become the abbreviated way to speak about it among those who are directly dealing with it.  I am not "highly confused."  Nice try.  Have you ever been presented with a letter informing you that you have 21 days to "protest" the Rule 37 "Exception"?? By what you're writing, it's highly doubtful. 

Many receive these and ignore them because they are not informed about what it means.  That is one way the industry simply "takes" the minerals.  They DON'T go out of their way to get in touch with the homeowners.  All the RRC needs to have is proof that the letter was not returned for being the wrong address.  A letter in the mail that they have a very limited time to respond to. 

It's all explained in a very technical way as well and that's unfair to the average person as well.  Also, many won't respond simply because they must work and cannot arrange to go to Austin.  (These are hard working individuals who don't have the ability to take off work that easily.)  They don't have the means to "hire" an attorney and don't know that they can ask someone to stand it for them, either.

These Hearings should be conduced in the Barnett Shale region when they affect people here. But all of this gives the advantage to the Industry, I'm sure you must know.

Oh, and when referring to the property owners as you have as "landowners," that's the problem. Middle Class people who live in a residential neighborhood only have a front and a back yard at most...less than 1/4 acre of land for the most part.  The industry wants to extract and mine the fossil fuel under these large neighborhood tracts of land. We're the reservoir, you must know.  Well, a few homeowners who won't sign can cause an issue for the spacing rule for sure with these "horizontal wells," that cut right through the heart of a neighborhood...but the homeowners don't often have the ways or the means to know what they should do when faced with the industry's filing of a Rule 37 Exception.

The RRC has granted many Rule 37 Exceptions in recent memory.  Here's an example of  a "Notice of Application" and a "Notice of Intent to Appear in Protest" dated October 3, 2011 from a Barnett Shale community.  This is what an unsigned property owner receives in the mail from the Railroad Commission.  It's a very weird format and a very odd wording of something that more realistically is saying, "You won't sign a lease, so the RRC will need to decide whether the operator can drill a horizontal well closer to your property than the "rule" allows."  If you don't respond by October 3, 2011, we will rule that the gas operator can drill and take your minerals:

http://www.whosplayin.com/xoop...

What are those "tons of options" you mentioned?  I want to know what those are.

Edgar
Edgar

You're highly confused about Rule 37.  You probably actually like Rule 37 (which is designed to reduce the drilling of unnecessary wells), but you don't like exceptions to Rule 37, which can allow an operator to produce closer to an unleased interest than the field spacing rules would otherwise allow.  Either way, it has absolutely nothing to do with eminent domain.  The rule of capture still applies, and if someone who didn't lease objects to it's oil and gas being drained by an operator under a Rule 37 exception, there are tons of options.  Most importantly, that person can simply object to the Rule 37 exception.  If he objects, the burden of proof is on the operator to prove waste or confiscation.  It's unlikely the operator will win since they can just keep the part of the horizontal well near the unleased property cemented without any "take points" - and if that's the case, obviously, there is not "taking."

Other options for the landowner: He can drill his own well under the rule of capture (perhaps under the Century Doctrine).  He can lease on better terms.  He can get himself pooled into the unit and participate in the well.  What he can't do is keep the operator from drilling on property that's not his - that would be, well, a taking.

Paul
Paul

Torts are neither good nor bad ... they merely reflect the decision about a disagreement between two parties.

WCGasette
WCGasette

Yes. Thank you for providing that word.  I thought my list was more of a definition...no matter what you call it.  Our state doesn't like torts that help people.  It loves torts that help businesses and corporations.  In recent years, Republican legislation has made it very difficult for everyday people to have their grievances heard in a court of law ~ I'm sure you realize.

Paul
Paul

Well that would be a tort.  You will need to prove that the prior torts are no longer applicable for whatever reason.

Please realize that the majority of what governs oil and gas (i.e. mineral development) development in Texas is based on civil torts.  The remainder, and a small remainder is based on statute.

The last big change was when the rule of capture was overturned.

WCGasette
WCGasette

The laws, the doctrines, the belief systems ~ they all need to be revised, if not overturned, for belonging in another century.

WCGasette
WCGasette

Thank you.  I happen to agree with the opinion or I wouldn't have cited it.  I see that you have opinions as well. 

Paul
Paul

Be careful as you read the bar's website as what you are reading are the advocacy positions proposed by different members of the bar.

That being said, the RRC has stated its requirements for what constitutes "publication of record" when several lessees tried using the "Daily Commercial Record" as a publication of record.

Although the MIPA does allow forced pooling, it does not allow forced leasing.

Pooling is not necessarily bad, but if a lessor is not careful, they may end up agreeing to some disadvantageous terms.  When forced pooling is done, correlative rights are protected.

I am of the opinion that when an unleased tract is completely surrounded by leased pooled tracts and the unleased tract is not of sufficient size to be developed (either economically or by spacing requirements), the correlative rights of the unleased tract cannot be protected.

I am also of the opinion that these tract's correlative rights are protected if the mineral owners receive the same provisions as the highest terms agreed to.

WCGasette
WCGasette

http://www.dallasbar.org/sites...

[...]Operators seeking to develop these reserves in urban areas faces two unique difficulties – (i) hundreds of thousands of small lot owners and (ii) extensive local oil and gas regulations. Statewide Rules that were not written with horizontal wells in mind further complicate plans. (1)

[...]

Statewide Rules were not written with horizontal wells in mind.(77) In the last 10 years, theRailroad Commission has had the unenviable task of interpreting these rules in today’s world of drilling horizontal, urban wells. In response, the Commission has allowed operators to use MIPA to force pool small tract owners into larger units for the first time. It has also granted special field rules to assist in developing horizontal wells. Some operators argue that the Commission has not gone far enough; some landowners argue it has gone too far.

Interpreting dated conservation rules in today’s world is not an exact science. The state’s conservation laws have not kept up with technology. As such, we need to determine what works and what does not, and then update the laws accordingly to protect everyone’s correlative rights....[...]

References (1) and (77)  Smith & Weaver, TEXAS LAW OF OIL & GAS, Vol. 2, Ch. 9, § 9.8(G), at 9-144.

Paul
Paul

No, my language is not from another era.  This is a description of the current tort law on the subject.

WCGasette
WCGasette

The industry refers to the activists as "fractivists."  They did last night. See.  Your industry can't even make a decision about that.  Safe shale gas drilling is an oxymoron.  It is inherently dangerous.

WCGasette
WCGasette

There IS something wrong with Rule 37...it is basically a "taking" via eminent domain of a person's property if they refuse to sign a mineral lease with a particular gas company.  This entire issue is equally a problem with land use, water and air.  All 3.  The environmentalists are rightfully worried about the environment when the gas drilling operations produce so much air pollution.  Homeowners can lose the biggest investment of their lives due to their property value plunging with a pad site or pad sites in close proximity. Earthquakes happen below the "surface" and last I looked they are happening with increasing frequency near drilling and fracking.  Environmentalists I know are concerned about the impacts of all it.

Edgar
Edgar

There's nothing wrong with Rule 37.  It was adapted by Rule 86 to accommodate horizontal drilling quite some time ago.  The purpose of Rule 37 (and Rule 86) is to protect correlative rights and promote conservation and of oil and gas resources.  They have absolutely nothing to do with what's happening on the surface, which is what environmentalists are concerned about.

pak152
pak152

the problem is that many of those calling for greater regulation don't have a clue about the O&G industry except what some activist has told them. and when someone with solid knowledge comes forth with accurate information they are accused of being a stooge or a liar. When Rule 37 came into being horizontal drilling didn't exist. What rule would you have them operate under.Many activists assume that the O&G companies sit down before drilling to decide how much they are going to damage the environment and screw the landowner. Far from it. they want to do what is right while at the same time making a profit.

WCGasette
WCGasette

Ah, here's the problem. Your language is from another era. This new-fangled drilling is creating new problems that need new laws.  The archaic O&G industry would prefer to make all of this "fit" into their long-standing rules. The Rule 37 Spacing Exception Rule is but one example of that. It is being applied to horizontal drilling and it was never intended for that.  But the industry loves to put the square peg in the round hole so that they don't have to be regulated for some of the NEW problems with this "new" technology.  They won't even admit that it's new.  There's the problem, too.

Paul
Paul

I didn't say that.  That being said the oil and gas industry in the exploration and production sector is exempt from many laws.

Go read about the "reasonable use doctrine" for mineral development in Texas.  I think that you will find it very informative.

heart and soul
heart and soul

No one's property rights gives them the right to poison the air and water of our city or harm its citizens. That is the law.

Paul
Paul

Fair enough, thanks for the conversation.

It looks like we will continue to have a difference of opinion, though I think that we are really not all that far apart on some aspects of this issue.

WCGasette
WCGasette

For Paul:  The "Reply" button was not visible with you last response which said:

"Sounds like people are being bought cheaply ... you should go educate your city leaders on this."

I hope you realize that all of this discussion is based on experience with "leaders."  Our city leaders let everyone down early on with all of this by believing that none of it was their business.  They told the citizens that all of this was about "their property" and not about their city.  That has been the overall FAILURE in all of this.  Leaders are elected because citizens believe that they will do the due diligence to protect them from harm. Well, that's the "idea" anyway.  When leaders decide to focus on only the MONEY promised by an industry to their city...there is bound to be harm done. 

The O&G industry has been held in such high regard by our state....when they come knocking on a city's door and say, "don't worry, we've got the knowledge and the years of experience to handle all of this and by the way, here's a check for $100,000..with millions more coming, soon."  We who have experienced it call it bribery.  They call it doing business in the Barnett Shale. Case closed.

Paul
Paul

Sounds like people are being bought cheaply ... you should go educate your city leaders on this.

WCGasette
WCGasette

Passing out checks to cities for holiday celebrations and events like Mayfest in Fort Worth...a $50,000 check was recently handed out to Arlington's City Council by DFW Midstream for some kind of park.  DFW Midstream is building compressor stations and gas gathering pipelines throughout Arlington right now.

You ask why anyone would believe a landman...are you serious?  Thousands of people were handed checks for their signatures in big signing parties.  You may see signing a mineral lease as a "significant action," but many did it because they were told that they needed to "get on board."  I have personally talked to many people who were told all kinds of untruths about what they could expect from the gas drilling process. But even a small amount of money with the promise of future "royalties" is quite the lure.

Paul
Paul

A lot of items there ...

All cities are supposed to protect their residents.  A home rule city is a city that has a charter.  It is allowed to pass any ordinance so long as it is not contrary to state law.  The other type of city is an at law city.  An at law city can only do what is specifically allowed by state law.

As far as being mislead, that is an entirely different story.

Why anyone would believe a land man is beyond me.

Executing an oil and gas lease is a significant action.

You seem to be alluding to the passage of money between O&G developers and various government entities.  Are you alleging bribery?

If you are alleging fraud by the lessees, how have you pursued this?

Thank you for your comments.

WCGasette
WCGasette

Very useful.  Our state?  You mean Texas?  Well, our state is all about oil and gas no matter how it impacts us. That was made perfectly clear this last legislative session when many protective bills about all of it were ignored...and the one that was trumpeted so much is the bill that created the fracfocus.org web site that supposedly gives us the chemicals used in fracking ~ unless, of course, they are proprietary, which makes the entire exercise a farce.  Our state does not have the ability to protect us since the politicians and the regulatory agencies are so financially controlled by the industry. 

Your earlier point in the previous comment: 

[...]The difference with mineral development is that the locations of the developments is set by the location of the minerals and not surface locations where the industrial development can occur.

To me the 3,000 foot setback is a red herring because I don't think you can find a location in Dallas that is not within 3,000 feet of a residence.[...]

Home Rule Cities are supposed to protect the citizens.  All across the Barnett Shale the home rule cities looked at all of this shale gas development through the eyes of the industry since the O&G industry is so much a part of our state and history. It was an easy sell. 

Unfortunately, they left out a lot in their presentations and are still at it.  Many of our towns and cities have homeowners associations and deed restrictions that explicitly say, "no oil or gas drilling."  Neighborhood leaders were told (by the landmen and not city or state officials) that all of this was the law of O&G and perfectly legal.

Those who questioned a community's "deed restrictions" that often stated "no gas or oil drilling" were assured that all of that would work out fine if enough of them signed leases...(even though these deed restrictions mostly say that "a vote" to change the deed restrictions must be conducted and agreed to by a very large number ~ 75% ~ of the homeowners.) 

So, rules have truly been overlooked and ignored in all of this...and our cities just stood by doing nothing to advise the communities because they were obviously being told by the industry that leasing minerals was between the homeowners and the industry.  And they believed it and kept their hands off of it (while receiving large checks from the industry at the same time).  The industry needs the communities sitting atop the old Barnett Shale to see themselves as partners.  So, they set about getting it done leaving out important considerations and even telling the potential lessors that it was 1) their patriotic duty to sign,  2) that getting away from foreign sources for energy was critical to our security and 3) that they would never even know there was drilling in their neighborhood since it would be so far away from them.

There is clearly a problem here.  There is the idea that many thousands of people were mislead about the process by this industry and would never have signed a mineral lease if they had known the true impacts on their property value and homes, their air and the overall potential harm to their health over time. There is that.  Saying that a 3,000 foot setback may be a "red herring" implies something "negative." 

If we're going to talk "red herring,"  clearly the shale gas industry offered up many "Red Herrings" to get it done over the past 6 or 7 years.  I see this 3,000 foot setback as a very smart recommendation to also get it done...this time from  educated citizens who learned all about it and came to their own very informed conclusions.

Paul
Paul

Actually, it is more a case of whether regulation of the hydrofracturing of formations productive of oil and gas; and, the protection of groundwater is an item within the realm of the Federal governments responsibilities; or, is it reserved to the states.

Paul
Paul

Yes Edgar, I agree with you that it needs to be included in the lease documents.  However, the problem does exist when at the end game the lessee has no assets to attach for enforcement of the lease terms.

What you are describing is defining what constitutes "reasonable and necessary use".

In many instances the mineral estate has long been severed from the surface estate.  If the mineral estate owners have none of the surface estate, then they are often reluctant to include surface protection clauses for fear that the potential lessee will not agree.

Thanks for your comments.

WCGasette
WCGasette

New Philosophy about all of it. That's what we need.  Mineral development should not be so sacred that it destroys our planet.  We couldn't even be doing slick water (chemicals, water and sand) hydrofracking of horizontal wells in shale unless the laws had been tweaked in the dark of the night by our former Vice President. If it was all so credible, then fracking would not have been exempted from regulation in the 2005 Energy Act.

Edgar
Edgar

I agree with almost everything you say.  To your concern about restoration down the line when the operator may be long gone, I would suggest that this is best handled during lease and surface use negotiations, and a cautious landowner should ensure that the operations site is reduced to a small, manageable footprint around the well(s) within a certain timeframe after drilling.

Paul
Paul

No I don't think it is a reason.  It is an area that it often overlooked.  Right now everybody is all up in arms about drilling, fraccing, compression, etc.  I haven't heard anyone talk about the endgame.

Mineral development in Texas has its own body of law and torts.  Many people do not realize that the bulk of the matters are civil in nature and not by statute.  The doctrine in Texas law and torts is that the mineral lessee has the right to a "reasonable and necessary use" of the surface estate.  Currently what the City is doing, or trying to do, is define "reasonable and necessary use".

From my perspective, one has to consider the endgame in leasing mineral rights otherwise it may end up being a no gain situation for the mineral owner if the mineral owner is also the surface owner.

I have been in several situations where I have advised clients that oil and gas development is not in their best economic interests.

For the Dallas Drilling ordinance, it is a question of a home rule city setting standards and requirements for commercial and industrial development.  The difference with mineral development is that the locations of the developments is set by the location of the minerals and not surface locations where the industrial development can occur.

To me the 3,000 foot setback is a red herring because I don't think you can find a location in Dallas that is not within 3,000 feet of a residence.

A similar situation with respect to land use is the restrictions for the location of "gentleman's clubs".  You can place restrictions on their location, but the location requirements cannot be so stringent that there ends up being no place in the city where the business can locate.

If the Dallas ordinance is so strict on location requirements that mineral development is essentially prohibited, it raises a question about whether or not the city is de facto preventing mineral development.

Hope you find this useful.

Edgar
Edgar

In your opinion, are the difficulties presented by the end game reason not to develop at all?

WCGasette
WCGasette

The problem is the definitions of "completion" are changing and they make up the rules.

They have set up an industrial shop within a few hundred feet of our homes and communities, built gas gathering pipelines to get the gas out of our neighborhoods, put in compressors and tank batteries and separators and frac ponds and they mix highly volatile chemicals that they then pump at very high pressure into the ground right under our homes and schools that may cause our foundations to crack and earthquakes to shake the earth and then they want us to breathe the air as if there's nothing to be concerned about because after all, we don't know anything about the Oil and Gas Industry. 

It's this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

And this:

http://youtu.be/jCZHknVeMw4

Thank you.

Edgar
Edgar

So would you rather operators file completion reports before wells are completed?

WCGasette
WCGasette

The RRC might tell you that a well has been "fracked" and you know it's been fracked, too, because you could smell it and see it and hear it out your back door, but the amended permit may say that it hasn't been ~ that it's an unperfed (unfracked) completion. And then you ask the RRC, "Why," and they say, "Well, it's because we require the operator to tell us something within a certain period of time for the well completion data, even if it's not entirely accurate."  That's an example of how the RRC apparently follows the law (for completion data) but doesn't penalize themselves or the operator for not providing information in a timely manner. And what they tell a citizen when they inquire.

Edgar
Edgar

And I said "issuing" permits.  Compared to cities, the RRC issues permits very fast.  Compared to its historical average, the RRC is way behind in ISSUING permits, and just about everything else.  Again, that's a legislative funding problem, not a RRC problem.

Incidentally, the RRC doesn't "update" permits...I don't know of any state or federal agency that updates permits.  Once something is permitted, it's permitted.  They do, however, update records.  Precisely what information is the RRC way behind on updating, westchestergasette?

WCGasette
WCGasette

I didn't say "issuing the permits," I said, "updating the permits" with the accurate information. The RRC "Issues" permits very fast.  If the only regulatory agency for the oil and gas industry can't "compel" the industry to provide the most updated information to the RRC then what's the point of having a regulatory agency??

Edgar
Edgar

That the RRC is understaffed is actually one of the few things environmentalists and the industry seem to agree on.  When it gets behind on issuing permits and compelling well-plugging, that's not the RRC's fault.

WCGasette
WCGasette

The RRC is understaffed. The regulatory agency for the O&G Industry is very far behind on updating the permits with up-to-date information. We know this. Those issues, alone, represent the bigger problems with the RRC. Theories on paper aren't always reality on the ground.  In the case of "compelling the operator to plug..."  Good luck with that.  Hope that's not too "apocalyptic" in spirit. <end comment<="" of=""></end>

claytonauger
claytonauger

Anyone who puts their fate in the hands of the RRC is a fool.

Paul
Paul

True almost all operators due indeed plug their own wells and the RRC can compel an operator to plug a well but that may take several years.

See http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/com... for info about the orphan well program.  It looks like it is down to only 6,000 +/- wells, at one time I think it was close to 100k wells.

The RRC has a method for prioritizing plugging orphan wells.  Some of them have been on the list for >120 months.

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