Much has been said about the ideas we presented to Flower Mound as far back as fall 2008 to keep certain natural gas facilities as far away from residential areas as practically possible.
We recognize that our neighbors throughout the community have legitimate questions about what our plans look like. That’s why we’ve been taking a more active public posture to provide answers, information and access to our staff.
Hopefully our efforts can help diffuse what has become a highly charged environment. We believe that civil conversations with the community will build better understanding and stronger relationships.
Along those lines, we want to say up front first and foremost that we can see why some folks have been feeling a heightened sense of concern over drilling and development.
Number one, we’ve heard that public health is paramount. Number two, we’ve heard that no one wants their yard carved up by those who could “use their powers of eminent domain” to lay miles and miles of pipelines.
We couldn’t agree more. We will, however, strongly suggest that the bill of goods told and sold about our existing site near FM 1171/Scenic Road has been highly speculative in nature and driven by a fear-based campaign, so please allow us to provide an appropriate perspective:
Fact 1: that place, which is owned by our affiliate Mockingbird Pipeline, has quietly, safely and peacefully co-existed with Flower Mound residents since 2005. Passers-by may have barely noticed it recessed in a pasture to the south and east of the intersection.
It includes 11 natural gas wells, 12 low-profile produced water collection tanks and two buildings that look like barns which contain compressor engines to help pump gas out of the ground.
With regard to public health and questions about benzene, the air quality at and around this site was pro-actively tested five separate times by third-parties in the first quarter of this year, passing every test.
Fact 2: that place covers 48 acres, but the current and even potential equipment cover less than one-third of the space. The purpose of so much land was to leave a 500-foot green-space buffer.
Fact 3: that place also has a pond, but it’s only for fresh water. We can use that source first when we need a big supply of water to break open the rocks deep in the ground that bear gas (as opposed to leaning on the town to sell us water, although we do purchase some).
The “produced water” that everyone has heard about has been handled at this site without accident or incident for five years. We’ve even provided an independent, scientific analysis of a produced water sample from this site to the town and the Dallas Morning News (in fall 2009).
On-site pipes take the produced water from on-site wells to steel tanks temporarily until trucks transport it out of town to a permitted disposal well, typically 40 miles away. This process has been safely repeated day-in and day-out (except for Sundays) for, well, five years.
Fact 4: we openly
approached town staff, the town manager, the town attorney, the oil and gas inspector, the environmental manager and every single member of the existing town council during 2008 and 2009 to clearly explain what we believed to be the benefit of allowing this site to support wells from our other local drilling sites outlined in our recent public pledge.
Our rationale – reducing the amount of miles and limiting the routes that trucks travel on town roads, reducing the number of water collection tanks near neighborhoods, reducing the number of compressor engines near neighborhoods, reducing the size of drilling pads (for supporting infrastructure) and reducing the number of dehydrators near neighborhoods (to remove moisture, not condensate, from natural gas).
In essence, we were told that the town wanted a new process to consider something like that. As the months passed, our ability to implement such benefits decreased with each passing day due to our drilling schedule, which is driven by our lease agreements with local landowners. Which brings us to…
Fact 5: the actions taken by the town council on Jan. 21 to establish a process for reviewing specific use permits for centralized facilities did indeed make our plans possible, but in reality, not as plausible.
We said so in the Flower Mound News Connection after fully understanding the fine print of what happened that night, but it seems as though no one noticed.
In the March 18 edition, we said, “The new measures make Flower Mound’s regulations and permitting processes stricter, lengthier and more difficult. From our standpoint, the new pipeline requirements are so challenging that certain installations may become impractical.”
In reality, the Jan. 21 action created a whole new level of regulatory hurdles and amended pipeline ordinances, that in our mind, were unnecessary based on the framework of the existing ordinances prior to that day.
But given the hand we were dealt, this was the only way we would ever even be able to submit an application for the ideas we believe provide tangible, measurable safety benefits. So we went to the podium that night in support of being able to play by the rules the town wanted us to play by.
Where We Stand Today
We respect the passion we saw expressed on Jan. 21 from both those who support and challenge our ideas. We’ve since evaluated how to alter (reduce) the scope of our plan and still get natural gas flowing timely and efficiently. This has been a thoughtful, deliberative process, with careful consideration for stakeholders.
For clarity, neither our affiliate (Mockingbird) nor our gas drilling business in this area (Williams Production Gulf Coast Company) have applied for a specific use permit under the new rules. Submitting something would have been futile given the political gridlock and our need to provide more public education.
But in the spirit of plainly explaining our current plans, as we’ve pledged to do, we’re happy to share what we’re thinking about. There are two parts to our amended plan:
- There are two existing “barns” on the existing 1171/Scenic site. The structures are sound-mitigation enclosures for the compressor engines inside. We may need up to three more “barns” for additional engines over time. All of our engines in Flower Mound either employ lean-burn t
echnology or catalytic converters (like cars) to protect air quality.
- In terms of water collection, it’s been reduced to about 1 mile of pipeline for produced water, whose path is located on 2 tracts of land separated by Scenic Road. We own one. A leaseholder of ours owns the other. This line would collect water from 2-3 of our drilling pads instead of the 8 or 9 we originally planned.
In terms of what remains most feasible, we’d like to seek a permit for the compression project relatively soon. At this point, our ability to pursue the pipeline component of our plan and realize its intended benefit has been diminished due to the delays we’ve incurred since this process began in late 2008.
Whether a moratorium for such ideas takes place or doesn’t is up to the town and potentially its voters. A petition with 6,000 signatures certainly is noteworthy. So is the input of 7 or 8 times that many residents who deserve the opportunity to speak, too.
What we will say is what the Dallas-based Harding Company told the town April 14 when they were asked to brief the gas board about oil and gas operations:
To paraphrase, “In urban settings, there will be challenges with gas development. It’s critical for towns and operators to establish a partnership.”
We agree. And we’re still willing.