Flower Mound Suspends Permits For Drilling Facilities
By Shelley Kofler, KERA News
Dallas, TX – Saturday's election of gas-drilling critics to Flower Mound's city council is already having an impact. KERA's Shelley Kofler reports the city has temporarily suspended permits for some controversial drilling facilities.
On Monday Flower Mound City Manager Harlan Jefferson did what the outgoing mayor and city council refused to do last week. He temporarily suspended permits for facilities that collect and store natural gas and water contaminated by drilling.
Saturday a record number of Flower Mound voters gave a landslide victory to the new mayor and council who backed a moratorium on the facilities.
The city manager's action prevents gas companies from submitting permits and having them grandfathered in before the new council tightens regulations.
Moratorium organizer Ginger Simonson called the city manager courageous.
Simonson: I believe he is looking at the vote as a mandate for change. A mandate away from automatic approval of gas company operations. He wants to have a breather to let the new council come in, take its oath of office and then let them decide.
When the new council is sworn in next week it will have three weeks to take action before the manager's suspension expires on June 8.
Returning councilmam Tom Hayden will be part of a new majority calling for tougher scrutiny of the drilling industry.
Hayden: I'm going to request we need to look at our ordinance. When we tell our residents our ordinance is the strongest I want to make sure that's fact not just words.
Hayden says the gas drilling industry needs to do more if it wants to operate in urban communities.
Hayden: I think the industry is going to have to see that while we as a community want you to access your minerals- we want you to be able to take the minerals out- we expect you to take a much higher level of diligence than has been expected in West Texas on a very rural ranch land is.
Councilmember Hayden says he doesn't know whether the new council will enact the same six-month moratorium previously considered but he feels sure it will put new drilling safeguards in place.
The biggest drilling operator in Flower Mound is Williams Production. Late yesterday Williams said it's disappointed by the halt to permitting. Williams says it's facilities are safe and the company is now assessing its options.