During the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with numerous elementary school classes, businesses, and community organizations. Regardless of which group I’m addressing, the question of how the Town is working to manage urban gas drilling is always asked, so I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect back on our efforts over the past year.
Numerous wells were already in the ground or had vested rights, and Flower Mound was headed in the wrong direction that could have encouraged more urban drilling when Mayor Pro Tem Filidoro, Councilmember Lyda, and I were elected a year ago. Protecting the health, safety, and welfare of our residents was a top priority then, and it remains so today. As the drilling and operation of gas wells are governed at the federal, state, and local levels, we must comply with the laws that supersede local ordinances while also diligently working to ensure our community is protected.
On a local level, we ratified the gas drilling petition, and enacted a 180-day moratorium on applications related to centralized collection facilities and a 90-day moratorium on applications for new gas drilling operations, both of which were extended for more than a year. We also purchased new air quality monitoring equipment, approved a new gas well inspector staff position, initiated a monthly air quality monitoring program, and appointed the Oil and Gas Advisory Board.
I applaud the volunteers who sat on the board and sacrificed nine months of their time to address gas drilling concerns in our community. The board presented their findings to us in January, and at the request of a majority of the members who felt like they were finished with their charge, the board disbanded in March. We subsequently conducted two public meetings and a public comment period to solicit feedback on 14 outstanding items that the board recommended. Currently, the Board’s proposed ordinance amendments, the 14 outstanding items, and council and staff recommendations are under review by the Town Council, Town Attorney, and staff.
On a state level, we have teamed with other local communities who share the same concerns regarding urban drilling to implement best practices that guard against weakening of local control, worked with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to install a 24-hour, permanent air monitoring station in Flower Mound, and encouraged the Texas Department of State Health Services to conduct health studies within our community. In addition, we have stayed in constant communication with our legislators regarding bills that could affect our efforts to manage urban drilling. We have also traveled to Austin numerous times during the legislative session to fight legislation that would remove our ability to protect the community, for example HB 3105, and support bills that would help us maintain local control, for example HB 3792.
We have also worked on a federal level with our legislators and the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure Flower Mound is part of a national soil and water study related to urban drilling. Addressing issues created by vested wells and managing urban gas drilling in Flower Mound will be an on-going issue well into the future. We are doing everything we can to manage the current wells and address future drilling in the updated ordinances. The Town is taking every step legally available to us to ensure our community is protected, and as long as we and those who share our vision are on the Town Council, it will remain a priority.
Mayor Melissa Northern
Flower Mound, TX