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Can Williams Be Trusted?

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The Town Council of Double Oak has a big decision to make on September 7 whether or not to allow the conditional approval of five gas wells operated by Williams Production with a provision for 10 more.

The Planning and Zoning Committee’s conditional approval of the Meese Special Use Permit (SUP), left many residents wondering how the town was going to be able to legally enforce any conditions without the proper ordinances in place.

During the August 16 meeting, Town Attorney David Berman advised the Town Council that he did not think Williams Production Gulf Coast would be inclined to adhere to the conditions set forth in the P&Z’s decision.

Clearly, there appears to be an issue of trust. A good attorney like Mr. Berman will tell you to get it in writing and make it enforceable.

It is well known that Williams Production does not have an exemplary track record operating locally. With three major spills of toxic production water in Flower Mound since March of this year – the largest being as recent as August 18 where 8,000 gallons of fluid leaked onto the ground. With such a close proximity to homes in Double Oak, a similar spill would have dramatic consequences.

In respect to Williams’ nefarious track record, it comes down to an issue of trust to allow drilling activity in Double Oak. The Town Council must exercise due diligence to the extreme when making this decision. This should not be an act of blind faith.

Like most commercial enterprises, gas drilling operations are about profit margins. A few years ago, Williams sent out letters to Double Oak homes offering mineral owners a $4,000 per acre signing bonus with a 25% royalty. Red Oak challenged the offer with $8,000. Sensing financial opportunity, the Double Oak Gas Committee (DOGC) was formed with the mission to haggle for more and was eventually discussing an $11,000 bonus if the committee could guarantee 95% participation. That never happened and those days are long gone.

Admittedly lacking in certain qualifications, the DOGC was not able to come to terms with any deep pocket entity and the mineral owners of Double Oak lost out on the best opportunity for a sizable bonus. Today, mineral owners in our area may expect $2,500 to $3,000 per mineral acre and 22% royalty. A sharp difference from the $11K discussed a few short years ago. 

It should be of no surprise to note that third parities often receive a percentage as payment for delivering signed lessors. Such practice is common and it would be prudent to inquire or better yet, retain an attorney prior to signing any legal instrument. Be wary of any individual pressuring you to sign with the argument, “They’re going to drill anyway, so you’d better sign!” or “You don’t want to miss-out on this. It’s free money.”

Again, when dealing with a third party directly and indirectly, it’s completely about trust. A gas committee or any third party is not looking out for your best interests. Do your homework and get an attorney.

With deadlines for expiring leases in Double Oak rapidly approaching, Williams stands to lose much of its stake if it can not execute the wells it promised to drill within a short time frame. Perhaps that is one reason for such haste and lack of detail in the SUP. Perhaps that is why Williams will promise to meet the conditions of the P&Z with out being legally obligated.

Let’s not forget that BP’s haste and carelessness were directly responsible for the oil spill disaster in the Gulf.  So if you don’t trust BP, you shouldn’t trust Williams.

What the Town of Double Oak needs to recognize is that this well site will be there for a very long time and without the proper restrictions and ordinances in place, the risks far exceed the rewards.

As drilling activity in the area increases, it is important that communities such as Double Oak do the right thing and protect all residents from any known hazards or potential harm. That is why we enact and enforce laws. Laws are made to protect the innocent. Ordinances are made to protect the community. The lack thereof does neither.

Think about it this way, all throughout the State of Texas you can’t talk on your cell phone while driving through a school zone, but you can drill a gas well as close as 200 feet from it.

Let your elected leaders know that there needs to be legal and meaningful changes.

Will Evans
Double Oak, TX

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