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Fort Worth Bans Disposal Wells

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The Fort Worth City Council has voted to ban wells used to dispose of water and chemicals contaminated in the gas drilling process. KERA’s Shelley Kofler reports the near unanimous decision brought words of thanks from citizens.

In 2006 the City of Fort Worth placed a moratorium on the disposal wells where saltwater and chemicals contaminated in the fracking process are injected some two miles underground.

As the April 30 end of that moratorium drew closer, citizens concerned about accidents and contamination near disposal wells urged the council to permanently ban the wells within Fort Worth’s city limits.

As it became clear council members planned to do just that citizens at Tuesday night’s council meeting rose to thank their elected officials. Libby Willis is president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhood Associations and a member of the city-appointed advisory group that has studied this issue for months.

Willis: This is a big decision that you’re making for generations of Fort Worthians for decades to come. And we appreciate you and we believe that the citizens of Fort Worth feel like you really did listen and hear and you really are representing them.

But some gas drilling companies have argued that the city could better regulate wells by allowing them within the city limits.

Steve Lindsey of Quicksilver Resources says the moratorium and ban just push the disposal sites into nearby unincorporated areas where there are fewer operating restrictions.

Lindsey: The approach that was taken was to not address the problem but to ignore it and push it off to areas of lesser regulation outside the city’s boundaries by way of moratorium. The city has chosen to reap the economic rewards of the past 10 years of mineral development while pushing off the disposal question.

Lindsey asked the council for a continuation of the review process and a possible exception to the ban for Quicksilver Resources. The company wants to locate a disposal well in an industrial area just North of Alliance Airport near numerous gas wells.

Council member Sal Espino had supported an Alliance area disposal site, but says he abandoned that proposal after city attorneys warned against treating that site differently.

Espino: I am disappointed we cannot find a way to get the Alliance Corridor pilot project going. It was really done to protect residents in Far North Fort Worth and throughout our city that are next to unincorporated county areas.

Espino and others now want the city to work with state legislators and create better controls for the injection wells in urban areas but outside city limits.

Two disposal wells are already operating in Fort Worth and are not expected to be affected by the ban.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.