Monday, October 28, 2013

A Nightmare on Vintage Street

It’s Halloween and the people near S. Bonnie and Vintage are bracing for the arrival of Frackenstein. Now that the City of Denton has withdrawn their lawsuit against EagleRidge it is all but inevitable that we’ll see something our ordinance was supposed to eliminate: fracking in close proximity to homes.

According to the Denton Record Chronicle, “City Council member Dalton Gregory said that the city’s new rules, which took years to draft, weren’t accomplishing what the council hoped they would accomplish. ‘We need to take another stab at trying to rewrite our rules to improve our legal position,’ Gregory said.”

Our new rules (with the 1,200 foot setback distance) don’t apply to most of the fracking that will happen around here in the future, because existing gas wells are vested under older rules. As one City Council member told me recently, “We closed the barn door after all the cows had already left.”

Here's what he meant: Even if the City would have won their cease and desist order, they would not have saved the Vintage neighborhoods. They would have stopped fracking on the two new wells, but not the existing (old) wells. Even under the best case scenario that the City is able to get new wells on existing pad sites defined as new projects (and thus controlled by the latest local regulations), we would still be looking at over 200 gas wells in the City limits vested under older rules with shorter setback distances.

And it may be even worse than this. Our current ordinance still has a clause (see 35.22.5.A.1.d) that allows for homes and other “protected uses” to be built as close as 250 feet from pre-existing drilling and production sites. Here’s the theory behind this. Setbacks are designed to protect the surface owner. If surface owners want, voluntarily, to move close to gas wells, then that is their choice (in other words, this is different from a surface owner already in place having a gas well come close to them without their consent).

The problem is that the “surface owners” being protected here are the mega-developers like DR Horton and Robson. They are the ones making a choice to build close to gas wells. But homeowners, those who will actually live in the area, are not making that choice. We learned from Vintage that no one was told they were moving into an industrial zone. So, they don’t get the protection that setbacks are designed to provide, because they aren’t the “surface owners” who matter in the eyes of the current regulatory scheme.

City Council member Kevin Roden called the situation on Vintage “awful.” He went on to remark, “I urge all of us to temper our initial desire for quick justice in this instance with what is in the long-term interest of our community.” It sounds like there is no stopping the fracking that is coming down Bonnie Brae from UNT to Vintage.

The only reason for this is because it is considered the continuation of an existing project that was permitted in 2004. Back then, there were no surrounding homes and Denton City Council issued a Specific Use Permit (SUP) for these sites.

I have pasted a screen shot of some of that SUP below. The current activity clearly violates many of the conditions laid out here. This could mean a $2,000 daily fine for EagleRidge. The City could even revoke the SUP. I wonder if they are considering this...maybe it's not too late to stop Frackenstein from visiting this neighborhood.



  1. This is so sad. The residents are rightly upset, some are considering evacuating their children while this is happening. But the risk will be ongoing and their lives will be forever changed. I think every council member should be required to spend significant time in this neighborhood so they can see the real life flesh and blood collateral damage from their poor decisions.

    Approximately 4.5 years ago, Cathy McMullen and I started working to get a better ordinance. We failed. Denton had a chance to be Corinth where residents no longer have to worry about drilling. But Denton decided to be a Dirty Oil Town instead.

    I know some defend the council members but it is not rational thinking to divorce their poor decisions AT EVERY STAGE from what is happening now. This was all set up intentionally by the council. I was there when the mayor handed out the surface owner loophole. If they had the courage, they could stop this. If they are not held accountable right here, right now, this will continue.

  2. P.S. The Council held the barn doors open and made sure all the cows were out, then they shut the door.

  3. "Quick justice" that is funny.

  4. Excuse my ignorance. What is the concern with fracking? Why do we need to evacuate our children?

    1. I had the same question until I visited a couple of active fracking operations. It produces lots of emissions and poses lots of risks, including all the chemicals on site and the truck traffic. It is an industrial activity that doesn't belong near children. I think if I lived in that neighborhood I would seriously consider getting my children out of there during fracking.

    2. EagleRidge representative said it would be about two weeks - not clear if they will do both pad sites simultaneously or one after the other

  5. notice you cant see anything with the naked eye and that isnt steam coming off.

    some reading on health hazards:

  6. here is the video, link didnt work above