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Fort Worth Council Nearing Decision on Gas Drilling Disposal Wells

Ray Bodden
(cc) flickr

Fort Worth City Council members want to hear from citizens one more time before deciding what to do about gas drilling disposal wells inside the city limits. KERA’s BJ Austin says the Council’s six-year-old moratorium on disposal wells expires April 30th.

A majority of the City Council appears ready to tackle the issue of wells to store contaminated water used in the gas drilling fracking process. There are more than a thousand gas wells drilled in Fort Worth, and hundreds of trucks carry the waste water to disposal wells elsewhere. City officials say that’s a lot of wear and tear on streets and roads. The City Council has repeatedly extended the moratorium, enacted in 2006. And, Councilman Sal Espino says it’s time to do something.

Espino: Whether we move forward to an absolute prohibition or we adopt an ordinance that restricts these to heavily industrial with no waivers in the setbacks, we have to do something.

Councilman Dennis Shingleton would like to see a water “recycling” component to any new permitting of disposal wells.

Shingleton: We’re going to allow this absolute disposal of all of this water permanently in this well, forever and ever, there’s a disconnect here. There’s an unpalatability here.

Councilman Zim Zimmerman says he’s willing to look at that.

Zimmerman: Water rates, if we want to increase water rates to encourage the industry to look at ways to recycle the water, but we need to come up with something that’s a go forward plan. We can’t keep sticking our heads in the sand and using moratorium as a way to kick the can down the road.

Others say they’d be inclined to permit a well in an appropriate location if the drilling company already had access to a pipeline that could transport the fracking water from the drill site to the well.

A public hearing is scheduled for the April 3rd Council meeting, with a vote on disposal wells a week later.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.