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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fort Worth Council Wants Best Practices for Gas Drilling

- Fort Worth Council Wants Best Practices for Gas Drilling

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
by Bill Hanna
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

The City Council signaled its desire Tuesday to require best practices for the oil and gas industry to increase oversight of drilling in the city.

Possible best practices include vapor recovery units, increased inspections of well pads and more research on formaldehyde and acrolein emissions.

"I think we definitely want to adopt best practices," Mayor Betsy Price said. "And we definitely want to send the message to [the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] that we want those inspections done and to maintain that oversight."

That was echoed by Councilman Jungus Jordan."We've had enough study; it's time to take some action," Jordan said, referring to the city's $1 million natural gas air-quality study.

At a three-hour gas drilling workshop, members also discussed the city gas drilling ordinance and possible amendments regarding setbacks, well sites and multiple-well sites.

Price said many issues remain "murky" and need further study by the city staff and council.

But council members appear to be moving toward lifting the city five-year moratorium on saltwater injection wells. They extended it by 90 days at the end of July just as it was about to expire.

Currently, wastewater from hydraulic fracturing must be trucked to sites outside the city, a process that officials say increases truck traffic and wear and tear on roads.

The council has been leery of allowing saltwater injection wells because of concerns that the waste could contaminate groundwater.

But a presentation from the Texas Railroad Commission eased members' concerns about allowing wastewater from large gas drilling sites to be injected into the ground. The state said it normally requires the chemical-laced wastewater to be injected into the Ellenberger formation, which is deeper than the Barnett Shale.

After the presentation, Councilman Sal Espino suggested allowing only large-volume injection wells so as to guarantee that the wastewater would be placed in the Ellenberger Shale.

Price said the discussion shows that the council is leaning toward lifting the moratorium when it expires in October, but she said it is unclear whether it will be lifted just for pilot sites in the Brentwood Stair area and the Alliance Corridor.

The city's only saltwater disposal site is the Brentwood well, and Hillwood Development would like to add one in the Alliance Corridor to reduce truck traffic and stress on roads.

"That's something that didn't get discussed and needs to be talked about," Price said.

Copyright (c) 2011, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

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