Saturday, March 29, 2008

FMCAUD Sponsored Candidate's Forum

Where does each of the candidates for Flower Mound Town Council and Mayor stand on urban gas drilling? Find out the answer to this question and have the opportunity to question our Council candidates on this and other critical issues facing our community.

Voters will have the opportunity to attend a Candidate’s Forum at 2:30pm, Sunday, April 6th, at the Flower Mound Town Library, sponsored by the Flower Mound Citizens Against Urban Drilling (FMCAUD).

Invitations have been delivered to Council Member Al Filidoro and challenger Steve Dixon for Council position place 2 and Virginia Jellison and Jean Levenick for Council position place 4 as well as to the current mayor, Jody Smith, who is running unopposed.

Here is a copy of the entire press release which went out yesterday.

Press Release
Town residents to hold candidate forum for Town Council and Mayoral Candidates regarding critical issues facing Flower Mound

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Flower Mound, TX March 28, 2008

Where does each of the candidates for Flower Mound Town Council and Mayor stand on urban gas drilling? Find out the answer to this question and have the opportunity to question our Council candidates on this and other critical issues facing our community.

Voters will have the opportunity to attend a Candidate’s Forum at 2:30pm, Sunday, April 6th, at the Flower Mound Town Library, sponsored by the Flower Mound Citizens Against Urban Drilling (FMCAUD) announced its president, Rebecca Belcher.

“While gas drilling per se, is not on the ballot of the May 10th elections, it is one of the topics of upmost concern to a great number of Flower Mound residents and we think it is important that all candidates be given a forum in which they can make their positions clear.”

Ms. Belcher stated that invitations had been delivered to Council Member Al Filidoro and challenger Steve Dixon for Council position place 2 and Virginia Jellison and Jean Levenick for Council position place 4 as well as to the current mayor, Jody Smith, who is running unopposed.

“The forum will be conducted in an organized and impartial manner. Each candidate will be allowed to make three-minute opening remarks. Then, the floor will be opened to questions. The length of questions, as well as the length of the responses will be limited so that as many people as possible will be able to pose their questions.”
Ms. Belcher said that “all Flower Mound voters are encouraged to attend the Candidate’s Forum, regardless of their position on urban gas drilling. It’s important to hear what each of the candidates have to say, which will allow voters to fully understand each candidate’s positions and to vote wisely in the May 10th elections.”

Ms. Belcher stated that while her organization’s stance is very opposed to drilling in residential neighborhoods, they are not opposed to all gas drilling. “We believe that there is a place for gas drilling, but it’s not within highly residential areas. Gas wells a few hundred feet from homes threaten the public safety, the environment, and significantly impact the quality of life.”

Ms. Belcher explained that she organized FMCAUD in early February when she, along with her neighbors, were shocked by the arrival of a letter from a gas developer, Cherokee Horn, announcing that the neighboring Northshore Club had been leased for gas drilling and that a number of gas wells were planned.

“I was dumbfounded that this beautiful little town—the place my husband and I specifically chose to retire in when we moved here from Amarillo six years ago—would allow heavy industry to locate as little as 300 feet from our home.”

Ms. Belcher continued that “no area of Flower Mound is ‘safe’ from gas drilling and that even the exclusive Bridlewood community is now faced with the prospect of a gas well on the golf course driving range.” She said that even the proposed Riverwalk development includes a gas well. “Residents have a right to question candidates for office on their positions—this is a matter that if improperly handled, could negatively impact the residents for many years to come.”

Event: Candidate’s Forum, sponsored by the Flower Mound Citizens Against Urban Drilling
Date: Sunday, April 6th
Time: 2:30pm
Place: Flower Mound Library
Invited Participants: Mayor Jody Smith
Place 2 Candidates: Incumbent Council Member Al Filidoro, and challenger Steve Dixon
Place 4 Candidates: Jean Levenick and Virginia Jellison [Council Member Laurie Long is not seeking re election]

Flower Mound Citizens Against Urban Drilling mission is the following: To work in a legal, ethical, and civil manner to stop urban gas drilling in the highly residential areas of Flower Mound. We are not against all gas drilling, but rather that which will adversely affect the public safety, the enjoyment of our homes, and our overall quality of life. Their blog is located at:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Congress investigates possible water contamination caused by gas well drilling

Sorry for the delay in postings. I assure you we are still here. I have been trying for the last several days to do more research and post a synopsis on this topic. However, my "day job" is even more demanding than usual at the moment.

We have all heard how the industry wants us all to believe that the drilling process is completely safe for our neighborhoods. Finally more questions are being asked. The U.S. House of Representative’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the process called hydraulic fracturing. The hearings, chaired by Henry Waxman began on October 31, 2007. They are looking into the chemicals used in the fracking process.

There was some interesting testimony from Dr. Daniel Teitelbaum, an occupational physician and toxicologist. He stated before the committee that "Although there have been documented health complaints by residents, no government agency has asked for an investigation,” he said. “The fact that neither government nor industry has undertaken these critical exposure/outcome health studies is inexcusable.”

You can read more here.

There are 12 criteria for the Flower Mound Oil and Gas Board to grant a variance to the drilling ordinance. A few of the 12 are:

- Whether the operations proposed are consistent with the health, safety and welfare of the public when and if conducted in accordance with the oil, gas, or combined well permit conditions to be imposed.

- Whether the operations proposed are consistent with protecting the ecological integrity and environmental quality, including protection of surface and ground water sources, of potentially impacted environmentally sensitive areas.

- The variance, if granted, will be no material detriment to the public welfare or injury to the use, enjoyment, or value of property in the vicinity.

We know there have been health complaints. We know Congress is investigating. How can anyone say there isn't risk? No one has all the answers.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Oil and Gas Board Meeting 3/12/08

The turnout at last Wednesday night's O&G Board meeting was GREAT! Every single seat in the Council chamber was full, plus several other people were seated in folding chairs and/or standing in the foyer. Emotions were high and it was obvious that people were there because of gas drilling.

The first and most important thing we want to communicate is that WE ARE SUCCEEDING in letting the board know that we care and are concerned with this issue. We were told that their usual attendance is much smaller. The meeting was very educational. It was also very long; we didn't get out until about midnight and they didn't even get to the "Riverwalk" variance request.When the minutes are posted at the Town website, you'll be able to see the official transcript of the meeting.

Here's our take on the evening. The Board of Adjustments meeting was first and lasted about an hour. The Board heard a request regarding a sign that was a few inches larger than code. It was ultimately denied. (As a reminder the Board of Adjustments also serves as the O&G Board.)

When the O&G Board meeting finally began, we were told that all of us that wanted to speak would be allowed to do so. If you want a chance to speak, you must fill out a form with your name and address. We also learned that there are two opportunities to speak during the meeting. If your topic does not pertain to any of the items on the agenda, you can speak during the "Citizen Participation" portion. If your topic is regarding something on the agenda, you can speak when that topic comes up for discussion. Our understanding is that anything that is stated during the "Citizen Participation" is not officially taken into account for the Board's decision.

We counted six people that spoke during the "Citizen Participation" portion of the meeting. All of those individuals expressed their concern over drilling in urban areas.

It was then explained that the board could only make determinations based upon what was in the O & G ordinance and that even if they personally disagreed, they still had to go by the ordinance. We were told that their decisions could not be overturned by Town Council.

We heard a very detailed presentation by a consultant who explained all of the variance requests for the first item on the agenda--the proposed drill site in far NW F.M. (This particular lease hold is made up of about a dozen homeowners who each have a fair amount of acreage and who want the gas well.) This was followed by a presentation by the town O & G inspector. Many, many questions were posed by board members as well as some very lengthy discussion on how each of the 12 criteria for approving each variance could or could not be met. The audience was also allowed to ask questions at this point.

Eventually, about midnight, all of the requested variances were passed . Because of the late hour, the request for variance for the "Riverwalk" Cross Timbers/Moriss Road location was tabled until next month's meeting.

We sure hope they give every drilling related variance request the same amount of scrutiny as they did that poor sign that was denied.

Remember...this is a marathon folks. The facts are on our side and we will prevail, but we have to be persistent and patient and smart. And we are.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What Can You Do?

We have been contacted lately from people that have recently been contacted about their mineral rights or just found out that drilling is being proposed for their area. The biggest question is "What can we do?"

Most importantly, you have to know that you can make a difference. Don't be intimidated.

There is a LOT of information out there and it can be very overwhelming. I'm not sure what you have or haven't done so I will mention some of the things that we have learned so far.

First, become familiar with Flower Mound's Ordinance. You can find a copy here. If a driller does not meet the criteria in that ordinance, they must file an appeal for a variance. (If you live in any type of "development", they will likely need a variance.) There are 12 criteria that is looked at for the variance. Those can be found on page 73 of the ordinance. Find some criteria that may apply to your situation and prepare your case on why the site does not meet those criteria.

Also, check out the town calendar for the Town Council meetings and the meetings for the Oil and Gas Board. At each meeting, residents are given the chance to speak for three minutes. That is where you can talk about your concersn. The town calendar can be found here.

One of the first steps that drillers have to go through is filing a permit the the Texas Railroad Commission. That is not the most user-friendly site. I talk about how to find new permits here. If you email us or leave a comment with your location, I will be on the lookout for a new permit for your location.

Also, educate your neighbors. There are many links on this site to additional information. We have talked to many people that have lived through this. I haven't heard anyone say that it has been worth it.

I hope this helps. Stay tuned. We learn more every day.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Texas Railroad Commission

It seems every time I question the safety of urban drilling, I am told not to worry because the industry is regulated by the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC). Sounds reasonable, right?

Since one of my main concerns is safety, I started to do some research. Here is what I have learned so far:

- TRRC claims to make decisions based on "public interest." However, in the past they have defined "public interest" as an increase in oil and gas production. Sounds like "oil and gas interest" to me.

- According to a recent audit, the agency employed 87 inspectors who conducted more than 118,000 inspections in fiscal year 2006. According to my math, that means that each inspector does an average of 1356.32 inspections per year. Based on a 48 week year (I'm assuming they take vacation and holidays), that is 28.25 inspections per week. So, they do an average of 5. 6 inspections per day. That leaves just over an hour to drive to the site (assuming these are on site inspections), do the inspection, write a report and take care of any other administration necessary. I pray my math is wrong.

- The 118,000 inspections resulted in a discovery of more than 90,000 violations. I don't even need a calculator to know how poor that is.

- Another gem from the audit is "Current policies do not prevent possible conflicts of interest." It has been proven that they receive gifts from the industry that the are supposed to regulate. Great, sounds like they have to fit long, expensive lunches into that busy inspection schedule.

-It seems that some wells are inspected poorly and some aren't inspected at all. 46% of the of the active oil and gas leases in Texas have not been inspected in the last five years. That means 79,046 wells have not been inspected in the last five years. Despite this fact, the commission continues to issue permits at an increased rate.

- One of the recommendations from the most recent audit was "The commission needs to consistently perform follow-up inspections to determine whether violations have been corrected." Great, they know there are problems but sometimes they don't make sure those problems are corrected.

- I am using the term "inspection" loosely here. All of the "inspections" are announced. I wonder how many problems are swept under the rug before the inspector gets there? I guess we will never know.

We must continue to ask questions regarding the safety of drilling in and around our neighborhoods. More importantly, we can NOT settle for the standard "we are regulated by the Railroad Commission" answer. We deserve more.

(In addition to the links above, you can read more here and here. )

Opportunity to hear Gary Hogan

Today at 2:30 in the Flower Mound Library Community Room, you can hear Gary Hogan speak about his experiences with urban gas drilling.

Mr. Hogan is President of the Chapel Creek Neighborhood Association (CCNA) in Ft. Worth. He served on the Ft. Worth Gas Ordinance Task Force in 2005, has been a City Council Representative, and was recently appointed to the soon to be reconvened FW Gas Drilling Task Force 2008.

Mr. Hogan has spoken extensively about this topic. He has been interviewed by CNN, 20/20, the BBC as well as many newspapers.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Lot Can Happen In A Month

A month ago, we got a letter from Cherokee Horn asking to lease our mineral rights. I immediately had concerns but I went to the informational meeting willing to listen.

I went to the meeting with a few questions and I left with a ton of questions. I went with a few concerns and I left scared. You get the idea. Since I didn't leave the meeting feeling like I received honest answers to my questions, I decided to do my own research. (Many of the same links that have been shared here.) I have talked to people that have lived through this very thing in Ft. Worth. I have to tell you I have gone from being scared to furious. We are not ready for all the issues that come with drilling in an urban setting. Period. The gas has been there forever. What's the hurry? Can't we at least wait to make a decision until more is known about urban drilling? Can't we wait until the industry develops methods suitable for our neighborhoods?

If we keep this up, it is not a matter of IF a disaster will happen, but WHEN it will happen. There is still so much information that needs to be shared that I sometimes don't know where to begin. The countless safety concerns, the farce called the Texas Railroad Commission, the numerous pipeline issues, the potential impact on our water supply, the potential impact to our roads.

People talk about "getting a better deal". For me, there is no deal until these issues are solved. How does a $500.00 bonus vs. a $2500.00 bonus negate safety issues? How does 20% royalty vs. 25% royalty make it OK for your front yard to be taken for a gas pipeline? Don't get me wrong, I can use extra cash as much as the next person. But is $500.00 and maybe $40.00 a month really going to change your life? I am going to go out on a limb and say it won't change your life as much as a horrible catastrophe or the constant threat of a horrible catastrophe. Now that's life changing stuff.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Think About It

A Flower Mound Town Council Meeting was held on 3/3/08. There was a very heartfelt talk given by a gentleman in our community that I would like to share. He started out by telling the group what attracted him and his family to Flower Mound. The decisions that Flower Mound made in terms of urban sprawl showed him that Flower Mound was the type of community that put the residents first .

In July 2006, he was diagnosed with a Stage 4 brain tumor. Thankfully, he is currently in remission. He shared this information only to point out that this is something that has been dealt to him and no one knows how he got it. Is is hereditary, is it environmental? Nobody knows. Hopefully in the next five or ten years there will be some answers. He has a five year old son. He wants to see his son grow up without allergies, asthma or cancer. Are these things caused by the toxic chemicals coming out of the ground in a natural gas well a few hundred feet from his house? Nobody knows. Hopefully in the next five or ten years there will be some answers. How will you feel if you find out in ten or 20 years your child or grandchild has cancer because of this drilling?

He mentioned that if anyone thinks they are not impacted by this because you live "out of range", think again. He reminded everyone that there were 35 mph winds blowing outside and those chemicals will blow right into your yard and this is only the beginning of potential Flower Mound drilling. It is coming your way soon.

He got a standing ovation.

There is a meeting of the Flower Mound Oil and Gas Board on March 12th at 6:30 pm. Mark your calendar because we need everyone there.

Also, if you are reading this and you still don't believe that there are toxic chemicals brought up in the process of drilling for natural gas. Click Here. Please.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

New Flower Mound Drilling Permits

In my neighborhood, we heard about the proposed Northshore site because we received leasing letters in the mail. But what if you don't own your mineral rights? What if the developer held the mineral rights? How would you know? What else is coming to Flower Mound that we may not yet be aware of?

Drilling permits are one of the first gates that every new project must go through. Therefore, we really need to keep an eye on the permits so we know what is coming. You can see existing wells and drilling permits on the texas railroad commission site. You have to play with the options on the page; select Denton County, select if you want to see wells, permits, etc. Once you get to the area you want to see, you can zoom in on certain areas. There is also a legend to explain the various symbols.

We found a couple of permits that we want to make sure people know about. The first is located near the Wichita Trail area. Click here for the mapquest link. (Be sure to click on the red star and zoom into the street level.) This permit was submitted on 03/09/2007 and approved 03/16/2007.

The second recent permit is located near Morris. This site has been mentioned along with the Riverwalk development so people may know about it. Click here for the mapquest link. (Be sure to click on the red star and zoom into the street level.) This permit was submitted on 2/22/08 and approved on 2/29/08 (last Friday).

If you live in that area, email us and let us know if you were aware of this site or not and if you were contacted with a leasing letter.

There are additional permits that I am still gathering the data for and I will post those soon. FMCAUD will also be monitoring new permits on a weekly basis and will communicate any updates on this site.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Town Council Meeting Tonight

Don't forget, there is a Flower Mound Town Council meeting tonight 3/3/08 at 6pm. The meeting will be located at Town Hall, 2121 Cross Timbers Road, Flower Mound, TX. At each Town Council member, citizens are given three minutes to speak, regardless of whether your topic is on the agenda. So, get down there are let your voice be heard. They need to know where we stand on this issue.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Welcome New Friends!!

First of all, thanks to everyone that supported our protest effort this weekend. We had lots of waves, cheers and "thumbs up" from the passing cars. I even had a chance to meet some new neighbors which is always a good thing. Several people stopped by and got information this weekend and I noticed that we have a record number of new people hitting this site.

Therefore, I will give you a quick tour. You will notice an "Index" just to the right. The previous posts have been categorized so you can hopefully find information a little easier. Also, there is a list of "Important Links" to the right. Those links will get you to a wealth of information. The site has a tremendous amount of information put together from some very nice people that have also been through this. We can learn from each other.

Once of the most important things our group wants to do is EDUCATE people about what is in store for us if the drillers get their way. We had one gentleman stop by this weekend that was under the impression that he will be getting about $2,000.00 per month with this deal for his small lot. Cherokee Horn themselves have admitted that a .25 acre lot might receive an average of $50.00 per month!! We have talked to other industry experts that put that number at about $32.00 per month. I have to believe that our quality of life is worth more.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Quick Report on Saturday's protest

Thanks to everyone who came out to protest today. We had a GREAT response from people driving by. Lots and lots of honks and thumbs up plus a fair number of people stopping by to ask questions, take our flyers or the "Just say NO to Urban Drilling" bumper stickers and signs.

We'll be out there again tomorrow between 1:00 and 4:00pm. Join us. Make a difference!