Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Frack to the Future: Why Are Drilling Rigs so Close to Homes in Denton?


Denton’s new drilling ordinance established a 1,200 foot setback between gas wells and protected uses like homes. But the future of fracking in Denton is going to be a story about gas wells much, much closer to homes than that.

We first got a glimpse of our future in April, just a few months after the ordinance was passed, when a development was approved that would put homes less than 250 feet from gas wells.
Now the picture is becoming even clearer. EagleRidge is drilling two wells simultaneously off of Vintage and S. Bonnie Brae. There are some homes just 100 feet from the pad sites. Many more homes are just 500 feet, or less, away. The diesel engines on site are pumping out black smoke.

 
I took this picture down there as the school bus was dropping off children. You can see one of the wells (south side)  – there was another one, even closer, behind me as I took the picture. The future of fracking in Denton is going to look like this: polluting industries plopped right next to houses. And all the activity we are seeing now is just the appetizer for the rush that is going to happen when we really start exporting natural gas and prices spike.

Here is the Railroad Commission GIS image for the wells.

  

And just tonight, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved another project that will bring homes 100 feet from a gas well.
You might wonder how this could be when the new ordinance seems to make this illegal. The answer is that the 1,200 foot setback in the ordinance does not apply to situations where new homes are built around existing gas well pad sites. I don’t quite know why this is. It has something to do with vested rights…but it also just seems to be a terrible oversight in the ordinance. DAG recommended fixing this problem. But that idea didn’t get any play.

Most of the pad sites that will ever be in Denton are already platted and at least partly developed. And most of them are south and west of town where lots of our population growth is likely to occur. So, we are going to see more and more situations where homes are in very close proximity to pad sites where new wells will be added and old wells will be reworked and refracked for years to come. And none of this will be covered by our so-called current ordinance.

We have learned that fracking and neighborhoods do not mix. But we are going to keep on mixing them.

Some will say that this is acceptable, because those homebuyers are making an informed decision to move next to a gas well. But they are not. They don’t know it is coming. I have heard from several folks in the neighborhood where I took this picture, and they tell me that this came as a surprise. Some say they wouldn’t have bought homes there if they knew this was going to happen.
Oh, and readers of this blog won’t be shocked to learn that the people in this neighborhood do not own any of the mineral rights and, thus, are not making a dime from the drilling. Records from the Denton Central Appraisal District show that the mineral ownership of these wells is split between five owners in Dallas, Austin, Abilene, and Lewisville.

9 comments:

  1. Developers are retaining the minerals in most all new housing developments unless they bought the land from someone else who retained them. In any case, most any new home in North Texas will not be sold with the minerals. Thanks for this blog post. We've learned that the home builders are not required to reveal information about future drilling to the buyers. That seems like such an injustice.

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  2. Recently, while leaving my gym along Loop 288, I was overcome by strong gas fumes. This occurred just before sunrise. Within a short while, I was dizzy and I had to pull over to vomit. I had a sick headache the rest of the day. My stomach wasn't upset and I had no other symptoms of a virus or sickness. A person riding with me also was affected. It was the same smell and reaction I had experienced before when driving near a gas well flaring in Dish, Tx, and, again, after dark one evening when driving and seeing a large plume rising above Argyle, just east of I-35W. As a Realtor, I run into these scenarios frequently. I can't imagine families with children living near one of these horrible industrial sites and I do my best to educate clients, but I can not know when an "abandoned" well that was long forgotten will be re-born through fracking - near another school, playground, or in the middle of a subdivision. In some areas, it is a roll-of-the-dice for investing in a home. As one mother said to me about the gas wells at her child's high school - "I thought they were drilling water wells!" The public is woefully ignorant of the problems and the dangers.

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    Replies
    1. With the amount of wells and hydraulic fracturing going on in this area I find it reprehensible that a Realtor would sell property that they know are near gas wells. If all the Realitors banded together and stopped selling property in the Barrnett Shale area that would bring attention to just how dangerous living in these houses can be.

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  5. Seems a bit ridiculous that developers feel the need to utilize every bit of the land earlier rather than at a later time when it'd be more feasible for the community.

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