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What’s Changed?

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Almost a year ago, more than 6,000 registered voters in Flower Mound signed a petition that asked the Town Council to adopt an ordinance that would place a moratorium on applications for Natural Gas Centralized Collection Facilities (CCFs) and new pipelines.  The ordinance also required the establishment of an Oil and Gas Advisory Board to review the CCF and pipeline ordinances. 

The petition drive was in direct response to what many believed was a rush to implement a CCF ordinance that seemed to only benefit mineral owners.  Residents had three main questions:

1) Who had provided input on the development of the ordinance?
2) What were the risks and benefits to Flower Mound? 
3) Why was such an important ordinance written and voted on in less than 3 months with limited feedback from the community?

Many of these same 6,000 voters came out and voted for new leadership on Town Council.  These voters were driven to do so after Mayor Jody Smith and her running mates made it clear their demands for action would be ignored.  By wide margins, a majority of voters elected Melissa Northern and Steve Lyda and re-elected Al Filidoro on May 8, 2010.  The election of these Town Council members, in large part, was the result of the voters of Flower Mound wanting a transparent government and the right to review and improve the CCF ordinances.

One of the Council’s first actions was to implement a moratorium on new drilling permit applications and to adopt the petition ordinance.  As a result, an Oil and Gas Advisory Board was established and was charged with reviewing not only the CCF and pipeline ordinances but the Town’s Oil and Gas Ordinance as well. 

Even though past Oil and Gas Advisory Boards had been given over two years for similar tasks, Flower Mound’s new Advisory Board was given 120 days to complete this task.  The board has requested and the Town Council has granted an extension until April 15, 2011.   Mayor Northern has given assurances that the current moratorium will be extended again by the Town Council to allow the Council time review and act on the Board’s recommendations.

In less than six months, the advisory board has completed a substantive review of the Oil and Gas Ordinance and put forth many meaningful recommendations.  Unfortunately, a comprehensive review of the CCF and pipeline ordinances could not be completed in the time allotted to them.

To fulfill the requirements of the petition ordinance, the Advisory Board put forward a four part recommendation: 

1) The CCF ordinance passed in 2010 should be revoked;
2) The pipeline ordinance as passed in 2010 should be maintained with minor edits;
3) The Town Council should be charged with reviewing the necessity and requirements for CCFs;
4) A new advisory board should be established to determine the CCF permitting process. 

There is no mention of extending the CCF moratorium while this process is completed. Why didn’t the Advisory Board just recommend honoring the requirements of the original petition ordinance?  What has changed since those 6000 voters signed that petition? 

Has the Town Council received overwhelming support for establishing a CCF in Flower Mound?   No.  In fact, many Town Council members still maintain they have concerns about having CCF’s in Flower Mound.  

Has the Town Council received any indication that the advisory board is not capable of reviewing the CCF and Pipeline ordinances?  Not likely, since the Board has done an admirable job on the Oil and Gas Ordinance. 

Has the Town Council been reassured that Williams, the driller originally interested in building a CCF in Flower Mound, will be a good neighbor?  Residents can review Williams’ record over the last year and come to their own conclusions.

What have we been told?  There are some Advisory Board members who would like to resign their positions, so “we” need to end the Board’s commitments and move on.  But if someone should resign, can’t the Town Council appoint new members so the petition ordinance can be honored?

We’ve also been told that there is a concern the moratorium on CCF’s is close to becoming so lengthy that lawsuits could be filed against the Town for uncompensated takings.   The validity of this reason should be questioned in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stated a temporary moratorium of more than two years could not be considered uncompensated takings.  Additionally, Fort Worth has had a moratorium on injection wells since October 2006.

I urge the Town Council to extend the moratorium on new applications for CCF’s and pipelines to allow the Advisory Board more time to complete the task they were given by the petition ordinance.  The recent approvals of CCF’s in Lewisville and Bartonville present the real possibility of poorly regulated pipelines, including produced water pipelines, crisscrossing Flower Mound.  If the Town Council decides to accept the Advisory Board’s recommendation related to CCF’s and pipelines as they are now, the Town Council, especially Ms. Northern, Mr. Filidoro and Mr. Lyda, must give a clear answer to the question – “what’s changed since you were voted into office?”

Kendra Stephenson
Flower Mound, TX
 

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