Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Rig at Southlakes Park

Our ordinance reads: "No Drilling and Production Site may be located within twelve hundred (1,200) feet of any Protected Use."

And the definition of Protected Use is: "Any dwelling, church, public park, public library, hospital, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten or elementary, middle or high school, public pool, public transit center, senior center, public recreation center, hotel or motel."

So why is it that we see a drilling rig up and working now just 719 feet from Southlakes Park? In fact, it looks like in just the past couple of weeks EagleRidge has received permits from the Railroad Commission to drill two wells from two pad sites just 719 feet from the park (and it has another permit in the works for a third well - see below).

I was about to post this leaving that as an open question. But I think I know the answer: The pad sites are in an industrial zone (near Acme Brick). So, you have to look above all that talk about protected uses in the ordinance, because that only applies to certain zoning districts. In several zoning districts, including industrial, drilling occurs "by right," meaning basically that they don't have to follow the regulations laid out in the ordinance.

Here is a zoning map of that part of the city. The red oval is drawn around the area that is zoned industrial. The green oval is drawn around the Southlakes Park area.

Here is the text now in full from the ordinance:
"The drilling and production of gas within the corporate limits of the City shall be permitted by right within the Rural Residential (RD-5) or within any unzoned area of the City that is subject to the use regulations of the RD-5 District, Rural Commercial (RC), Neighborhood Residential 1 (NR-1), Neighborhood Residential 2 (NR-2), Regional Center Commercial Neighborhood (RCC-N), Regional Center Commercial Downtown (RCC-D), Employment Center Commercial (EC-C), Employment Center Industrial (EC-I), Industrial Center Employment (IC-E) and Industrial Center General (IC-G) Zoning Districts, except as provided in subsection B, and subject to compliance with the requirements of this Subchapter.
The drilling and production of gas within the corporate limits of the City in all other zoning districts shall be permitted only by Specific Use Permit pursuant to Subchapter 35.6, or through approval of a Detailed Plan in a Planned Development (PD) district, or site-specific authorization in Master Planned Community (MPC) district. Notwithstanding the provisions of Subsection A., approval of a Specific Use Permit also shall be required for gas well drilling and production on any land located within the 100-year flood fringe or within one thousand, two hundred (1,200) feet of the flood pool elevation of Lake Ray Roberts or Lake Lewisville."

Looks like we just wrote an ordinance that does not always protect "Protected Uses." So, it is not an enforcement problem but an ordinance problem - if, that is, we really think gas wells should be 1,200 feet from public parks. If we really believe that, does it matter that it is on industrially zoned land? Shouldn't we still enforce a 1,200 foot setback? In this case, that would mean moving the rigs further to the west.

Here are two pics of the rig. The first one is taken from McMath Middle School -- I don't have a measurement on this, but the rig looked to me like it is less than 1,200 feet from their playground. The other one is from the path around Southlakes Park.



Here is a picture courtesy of Sharon Wilson's work on the RRC site. The green area is South Lakes Park and the pentagon shapes are the pad sites:

Here is another one I snapped. You can see it is nowhere close to 1,200 feet.

Here are the RRC records for the one well on the northern pad site.

Here are the records for the other wells on the southern pad site. This is clearly a BRAND NEW project. And our ordinance DOES APPLY to it. But if my reading is right, it doesn't matter, because it is in an industrial district. So, even though this brand new project is less than 1,200 feet from a public park, our ordinance does not apply. They can drill there "by right."

That's the question for us. If we think public parks deserve 1,200 feet of protection (as we seemed to indicate in the ordinance), why didn't we apply the separation standards to gas wells in industrial zones that border protected uses?

Seems like another oversight to me - an indication that we have an ordinance problem and not just an enforcement problem...


  1. Many other cities in the Barnett Shale have passed either a weak drilling ordinance or a strong one. No other city has experienced all these loopholes and many "oversights."

    That begs a question: Is Denton incompetent or malfeasant?

  2. Even Midland, TX has an ordinance that does not allow drilling in the city. http://www.eenews.net/energywire/stories/1059972801

  3. It would only be "malfeasant" if our elected leaders ignored their attorney's advice & went forward with an ordinance that caused the city to be dragged into unnecessary lawsuits.



  4. Why are most of the complaints in Denton about either Range or EagleRidge? There are many companies operating in Denton, but we only read about a few of them. Maybe Mr. Ronca (http://eagleridgeenergy.com/eagleridge-team/board-of-directors/ceo/) holds the key.

    1. EagleRidge is the only one active right now... at least around here.

    2. So the new ordinance is accomplishing what you wanted it to accomplish!

    3. not sure what you mean - if you mean there is not much activity, that is only due to the market, not our little old ordinance.