Thursday, July 23, 2009

Let's be Neighborly

NOTE: Tonight I spoke at an HOA meeting, here in Flower Mound. Here are my remarks:

Whenever I speak, I always start with the exact same comments. They are: I represent the Flower Mound Citizens Against Urban Drilling, a group of concerned residents who believe that gas drilling in highly residential areas is a threat to the public safety, the public health and the overall quality of life here in Flower Mound.

We are NOT against all gas drilling—but only that which will adversely affect the public safety, the enjoyment of our homes, and our overall quality of life.

That last statement is such an important aspect of our core beliefs that I want to repeat it…..We are NOT against all gas drilling, only that which will adversely affect the public safety, the enjoyment of our homes, and our overall quality of life.

Over the past year and a half, I think we’ve all learned far more about urban gas drilling than we ever wanted to know. Rather than spending a lot of time on a detailed discussion of the myriad of hazards related to urban gas drilling, I’d like to make an appeal to you—as one neighbor to another.

In the simplest of terms, I’d ask that you refuse to support anything that could bring harm to a neighbor.

This concept (looking out for your neighbor) is relevant in this discussion, because some of us are very close to potential drill sites, while others are quite some distance away-- yet those that are a fair distance away have the ability to weigh in on drilling decisions that will highly impact others. In other words, if you lease your minerals because you know that the planned drill site will be far away from your home—what about the person whose home is near the drill site?

I don’t know about your neighborhood, but the storm in the first part of June hit our neighborhood hard. We were without electricity for 2 whole days. But it was the oddest thing, because it was just our side of the street. I don’t even think the lights flickered on the other side of the street.

You know what happened? As soon as it was safe, the neighbors on the “lucky” side of the street were right there with us—plugging in extension cords to run fans and refrigerators—ice—room in their refrigerator--a cool place to stay….

You see, we’re neighbors and we look out for each other

Let’s look at this another way…what if you found out that a XXX movie theatre was proposed a several blocks down the street, but right next door to someone’s home? Or a fertilizer plant. Or a pig farm. You’d be up in arms, right?

How is an urban gas well any different? Urban gas drilling is considered heavy industry. And worse than that, it’s not even subject to the Federal Clear Air or Federal Clean Water Acts. It can take place without environmental impact studies.

It could bring hundreds of truck loads of water, sand, and equipment down your streets where 5 year olds wobble along on their bikes on training wheels.

And the noise….do you know that many people who live nearby wells sites ask to be relocated during the drilling phase? The developers will tell you that yes, it can be annoying for the first few days of drilling, but then they’re gone. What they don’t tell you is that the well sites can contain many horizontal lines. Each one has to be drilled individually. And then later, it will have to be re-fracked to stimulate additional production.

And water…you know I come from West Texas and water is an unbelievably precious resource. Do you know each well that’s drilled can require as much as 5M gallons? And once used, besides whatever’s in the fracing fluids, it contains salt at a level that will sterilize the soil if spilled. And it will be spilled….it has to be trucked away and forced back into the ground through an injection well out in the country….where it may leak into farmers’ and ranchers’ water supplies.

And then, what about the pipeline that would be necessary to transport the gas to the nearest collection line? Where would that be laid? Whose property would have to be acquired through eminent domain? Just because you think that they won’t be drilling near you, that doesn’t mean you won’t have a pipeline running through your front yard. Don’t think it can happen? Look at what happened to the folks on Carter Ave. over in Ft. Worth.

And finally, let’s talk about the economics of gas drilling…..$2,500/acre signing bonus. Well I have a good sized lot (I think), but it’s only a ¼ acre, so that would be $625. Less federal income tax…probably less than $500. Then the royalties…goodness…gas is something under $4 now…what would that be, $10/month? Double it. $20/month?

You also hear that urban gas drilling doesn’t have a negative impact on home values. Let me ask you a simple question? If you were in the market for a home and you had a choice between a house next to a gas well and a house NOT next to a gas well? Which would you choose? The Metroplex is a big place and there are a LOT of places you can live where you would have to deal with urban gas drilling.

I’ve heard many, many times that it’s inevitable and that there’s no reason to fight it, because they’re going to win anyway. I disagree. This may be Texas where O&G is King, but it’s not China or North Korea…we’re Americans and we have the right to stand up and protect our property and our well-being.

Flower Mound is fortunate in that our Town leaders have passed a strong O&G ordinance. But we have to be vigilant: 1) keep the ordinance strong and 2) make sure that the O&G Board (which approves variances) continues to deny variances requests for proposed sites in highly residential areas.

Some people believe the large landowners’ stance that they have a “right” to develop their minerals—even if it is to the detriment of their neighbors. Again, I disagree. As freedom of speech does not give one the right to yell “FIRE” in a crowded theatre, property ownership does not give one the right to develop it in a manner that causes harm to a neighbor. Otherwise, why are their ordinances which preclude me from turning my back yard into a salvage yard, a used car lot, or a firing range?

This group has always encouraged people to speak using only the facts. Don’t get up and say that gas drilling causes cancer—unless, of course you’re credentialed and you have scientific evidence to back it up. Talk about what you know.

Here’s what I know. I did not buy a nice home in a beautiful residential area of Town expecting that a gas developer would bring heavy industry into my neighborhood. But there’s more to it than that. I don’t want a gas well drilled a few hundred feet from your house either. Or, your church, or your child’s school.

I promise you I’ll be a good neighbor, will you?

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