Right across the street from my house is a North Richland Hill’s (NRH) future park site called Little Bear Creek Park. Last summer, Chesapeake leased the land for a drill site and decided to put the well on the furthest western portion of the park, right next to homes that are in Keller. Chesapeake also decided to ask for a variance and drill closer than the 600 feet setback required by NRH’s drilling ordinance. But guess what? Because those people didn’t live in NRH, the city didn’t have to notify them, but rather sent a notice of public hearing to the City of Keller. If they had read Keller City Limits, I warned them of the drill site back in July of 2008. I also believe there was an article in the FWST with a map that showed the drill site location, but that’s neither here nor there.
These residents were warned of the pending drilling only when the land surveyors started showing up and when they found out they became mobilized. They came to the City of Keller, and although there wasn’t a lot Keller could do, they listened to their concerns and contacted NRH. City Manager Dan O’Leary set up a meeting between Chesapeake and the residents at Keller City Hall that my wife attended that broke down to a screaming and shouting match on both sides. My wife stated that the Representatives from Chesapeake were the most unprofessional of any corporate public relations reps she has ever seen. I couldn’t attend the meeting because I was being swore in to another term on P&Z at the same time the meeting was held. I think some of the frustration from the home owners was that they would have to contend with a well site, and yet they were never approached about their mineral rights. It makes it easier to put up with a well site if you were got a little money in the bank.
The group from Keller then tried to attend a NRH City Council Meeting, where they found out that some cities are more open to criticism than others. Apparently, NRH has a forum for citizens to speak, as long as it’s not on a agenda of any body in the City. Keller City Councilman John Baker attended the meeting and gave me a call to tell me how frustrating it was to sit there and watch while his citizens were told they were free to speak, but not about the well site at Little Bear Creek Park. When Councilman Baker approached a member of NRH City Council after the meeting, he was basically told that they run their City their way and because it may be different than the way Keller does things, it doesn’t make it wrong.
NRH also doesn’t require a vote from the City Council to approve a well site if it meets all their requirements, while in Keller, it requires a Special Use Permit and a vote from both Planning and Zoning and City Council with public hearings at both meetings. Councilman Baker let me know that he told the Representatives of Chesapeake that Keller was in the midst of revising it’s Drilling Ordinance and that he had learned a lot by watching how Chesapeake was treating his constituents. He reported to me that he made it clear that he made Chesapeake Representatives aware that he and other members of the Keller City Council have long memories and would take how they are treating residents of Keller in this incident into account if Chesapeake were to ever file for a SUP for a drill site in Keller.
Well, now comes word that Chesepeake is moving their well site, to where? We will have to sit back and wait. They also have to contend with the fact that some of the sub surface leases are running out in February, and if they don’t drill soon they will have to renegotiate those leases.
From the FWST:
A group of Keller residents has gotten part of what it wanted most this holiday season: Chesapeake Energy has scrapped plans to install a drill site at Little Bear Creek Park within 600 feet of their homes.
The company now plans to resubmit its drill plans for another spot in the North Richland Hills park, according to Chesapeake spokeswoman Julie Wilson.
But homeowners along Creekridge Drive are still worried about where Chesapeake will build a so-called frac pond, a reservoir for the water that will be pumped into the ground to fracture the shale below.
Residents say the situation shows how cities have ceded too much power to natural gas companies in determining where and how they drill.
“Basically [Chesapeake] tried to come in and jam this down our throat and hoped nobody would notice,” said Barry Thompson, who lives on Creekridge Drive near the park.
United in protest
Gas drilling at Little Bear Creek Park, in the 7300 block of North Tarrant Parkway, was approved by the North Richland Hills City Council in July.
Chesapeake acquired the lease last year and subsequently filed a request for a variance to the city’s requirement that wells be at least 600 feet from residential structures. The original paperwork included plans for up to 16 drill holes and a pond.
Creekridge Drive residents united in protest, concerned about the effect on property values and the park. They quickly submitted a petition with hundreds of signatures opposing the variance and launched a Web site devoted to the issue, HelpCreekridgeDrive.com.
The focus soon shifted to a hearing scheduled for early December before the city’s Gas Board of Appeals. The week of the meeting, Chesapeake requested that a vote on the issue be postponed for a month.
Last week, Chesapeake withdrew its variance request, according to John Pitstick, director of planning and development for North Richland Hills.
Chesapeake now plans to refile its drill plan for a site at least 600 feet from residences, Wilson said.
Wilson said part of the difficulty was finding an appropriate location for the drill site because much of the parkland is in a 100-year flood plain.
The company may have to file a drainage plan if the drill site ends up in the flood plain, Pitstick said.
“Until we see a final site plan, it’s hard for us to properly review it and see what needs to be done,” he said.