After all, the towers were few and far between, and Flower Mound had a well-earned reputation as a family-friendly residential community unreceptive to commercial and retail development. Let Southlake, Grapevine and Highland Village become shopping Meccas. We’ll stick to our horses and buffalos, our quiet restaurants and shops, and our modest traffic.
Then, seemingly overnight, the gas wells started creeping closer to our peaceful neighborhoods and exemplary schools. Huge tanker trucks began rumbling down residential streets. And kids started getting sick.
The news traveled fast, prompting the locals to start asking questions. But answers were elusive. Representatives from the drilling firms, most notably The Williams Companies, smiled and assured everyone that they had only the best interests of the community in mind. But they refused to address the tough questions, while making it patently clear they had no intention of slowing down.
Though the numbers keep changing, Williams plans to drill at least 100 more wells throughout Flower Mound over the next few years, with many of the new pad sites in close proximity to homes, schools and businesses.
Meanwhile, Mayor Jody Smith and her allies on the Town Council fiddle while Flower Mound is systematically pillaged.
Despite increasingly strident pleas from constituents to tap the brakes and assess the short- and long-term consequences of their actions, a firm majority of the council stubbornly votes in lockstep on behalf of the gas interests. On January 21, roughly 600 Flower Mound citizens packed a Town Council hearing to voice their concerns with the latest sell-out to Williams. An overwhelming majority of those present voiced their opposition to the proposed ordinances, just as a similarly vociferous group had advocated a temporary moratorium on new drilling permits at a December 17 hearing. In both cases, three of the five council members thumbed their noses at the irate crowd and sided with the drillers.
Mayor Smith and her pro-drilling cohorts offered various defenses for disregarding the will of their constituents. They claimed to be prohibited from preventing drilling within the town, citing the takings clause of the U.S. Constitution. They dismissed as overblown “scare tactics” many of the health and safety concerns raised by their opponents. They worried aloud about the inevitability of lawsuits brought by Williams should the town dare stand in its way. And, in true political fashion, they insisted upon having more “facts” before they would reconsider their position.
The fracking process generates toxic vapors and waste water that can contaminate the air, water and soil. Over the past half-dozen years, more than 1,000 documented incidences of water contamination in the western U.S. have been linked to hydraulic fracturing. Most of these have occurred in remote areas far removed from population centers. In densely populated areas, the margin for error is much narrower.
The exemptions allow drillers to disingenuously claim that since they are not required to label the contaminated water as “hazardous,” it isn’t. But nothing could be further from the truth. Fracking fluids typically contain roughly 240 toxic chemicals, including carcinogens, mutagens, endocrine disruptors and other lethal compounds, the vast majority of which have adverse health effects.
Last Summer, legislation was introduced in Congress to give the EPA authority over the hydraulic fracturing process. But given the myriad of other issues facing the feds, not to mention the lobbying muscle still wielded by the oil and gas industry in Washington, there’s no telling when, or if, the “FRAC Act” will ever see the light of day.
The compliant leadership of Flower Mound’s Town Council refuses to press the issue.
But the natives are getting restless. They’re demanding answers to these and other urgent questions, not least of which is the impact all these uncertainties are having on property values. Local realtors have presented anecdotal evidence that an exodus may already have begun, while many new buyers are suddenly steering clear of Flower Mound. That’s a bitter pill to swallow for a town that was named the sixth-best place to move in the nation by Forbes in 2009.