Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Work Still Needed on Denton's Ordinance

Here are my remarks for City Council tonight.
The draft ordinance is an improvement. I commend City Staff and Council for their efforts. I could see this being ready for approval in a few months. But we are not ready yet, so I urge you to extend the moratorium one more time.
There are two reasons we aren’t ready. First, there are still crucial elements either missing or in need of strengthening. Second, it is unclear how key provisions in the ordinance will perform in terms of protecting health, safety, and welfare.
What’s still missing? Here are some of the most important items:
1.      Increased set backs of 1,500 feet

2.      Prohibition of compressor stations

3.      A three-tiered zoning strategy that would permit drilling by right in industrial areas, via an SUP in commercial areas, and would expressly prohibit drilling in residential areas.

4.      An expiration timeline for projects (not just permits) so that projects are not perpetually considered ongoing and new activities must comply with new rules.

5.      Eliminate variances granted by Zoning Board of Adjustment and amend variances to protect inhabitants of rental properties.

6.      Eliminate all pits that would contain anything but freshwater.
7. Require low-bleed valves and other industry-recognized best practices.

What’s still unclear? Here are some of the most important questions:
1.      On site requirements, n. p. 14: Vapor recovery units – when are these required, what can they do to protect our health?

2.      On site requirements, p. p. 15: Reduced emissions completions – what does it mean to be infeasible, who determines that? Can we be sure that all vapors (and not just the recovered gas) are captured and prevented from release? What does it mean to ‘minimize’ release to the atmosphere – what standard is applied here?

3.      Operations and equipment standards and practices e. p. 16: Why can’t we simply prohibit venting and flaring outright? When is it allowed by RRC and TCEQ?

4.      Storage tanks b. p. 17 – what are centralized tank batteries?

5.      Air and water monitoring requirements – why are these not spelled out in the same detail as the soil sampling requirements? Have you looked at the example provided by Hurst? Why are the freshwater well testing requirements removed? How can we be sure that we are protecting our aquifers and watersheds and how can we be sure we are preventing releases of noxious or nuisance vapors?
To address these remaining issues, DAG would like to invite a panel of knowledgeable City representatives to give a public presentation. We have in mind an educational, detailed explanation and justification of the ordinance so that citizens can better understand what City Council will be voting on. I would be happy to work with you in arranging the logistics. And, while we arrange this meeting, please have the ordinance posted online in a searchable format.

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