Saturday, November 26, 2022

Leaders should deny Titan’s application

During this Independence Day weekend, I want to share this quote from John Adams – “Be not intimidated… nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice.”

We have all been exposed to the empty promises and overly optimistic predictions used by BP and The Administration as the Gulf disaster unfolds. As I’ve said in the past, only a strong, unbiased press and an informed citizenry can protect us when powerful interests co-opt elected officials.

Closer to home, we are faced with Titan’s application to drill 20-24 gas wells on Hilliard Field, the heart of Flower Mound, for 5 or more years. The reality of this happening is here, despite the fact that the Flower Mound Oil and Gas Board of Appeals sent a very strong message on May 19, 2010. They denied all 4 variances requested by Titan (on behalf of Mr. Hilliard). However, at the last Council meeting, the Town Manager stated that the Town will have no choice but to administratively approve Titan’s request. Here’s the reason: Unbeknownst to most of us, the Town approved Mr. Hilliard’s request to take down 19 trees (considered upland habitat), as Mr. Hilliard relocated his storage shed and started plugging his fresh water well. These maneuvers (essentially the variances previously denied), were done with the express knowledge of the Town Manager, Attorney and Council. With this strategy, Titan can now go around the Oil & Gas Board of Appeals decision on May 19.

I believe it is time for our newly elected council majority to demonstrate that they understand a majority of residents elected them to limit the proliferation of gas drilling in Flower Mound. I do not believe it is unreasonable to expect them to use the law (both the Texas Municipal Code & the Town’s O&G ordinance) to administratively DENY the Titan application on Hilliard Field. During the last Oil & Gas Board of Appeals meeting, the residents provided the Town Staff and Council with adequate ammunition to deny Titan’s application. The May 8 voters resoundingly told Gerald Robinson that we are NOT afraid of lawsuits. And, of course, we know that Titan, backed by venture capitalists (carrying Titan as an unrealized investment) may not be well-capitalized enough to mount a legal challenge against the Town, in the event of an administrative DENIAL. I honestly believe that a majority of Flower Mound residents would back the Mayor, Council Members and staff in administratively denying the Hilliard application

So where are we today? This situation exposes a weakness in our Oil & Gas Ordinance. As written, the only place where SmartGrowth, Master Planning and the orderly development of the Town can be addressed is during the Oil & Gas Board of Appeals review. It is the only place where criteria related to the health, safety, and welfare of the surrounding residents is considered. And when these things were considered in regards to Hilliard, the Board, on the strength of persuasive citizen input, decisively denied the variances. And yet, the Town staff set aside those denials and is now looking at Hilliard in an administrative vacuum, allowing trees to be removed under other sections of Town code. They are doing this and yet no one has addressed presentation questions from May 19th at Town Hall about the blast radius of a potential gas well or pipeline explosion on Hilliard Field and its effects on the schools, church and residences within a ½ mile. They are doing this despite the fact that many parents with kids attending Shadowridge Middle School have no clue about how their loved ones would be evacuated in the event of a catastrophic event less than 2,000 ft from the school. They are doing this without understanding the potential dangers of hot-tapping gas from Hilliard field into the ATMOS transmission line in a densely populated area.

So now, the only thing standing between Flower Mound residents and multiple gas wells in the center of our town is the Environmental Services staff. They’ve had the guts to send back Titan’s amended application with a host of unresolved issues and questions. But, they know that if Titan addresses those issues that the Town staff intends to administratively approve the request. They know that only the Mayor and Council can attempt to change this outcome. Bottom line: There is a tiny window of time for you to tell the mayor and council that you want an administrative denial of this application. Please email or visit the town council and let them know where you stand.

As I prepare to enjoy the fireworks and reflect on the beauty of American exceptionalism embodied in our Declaration of Independence, I wonder what John Adams would be thinking about our situation and our local government.

Ginger Simonson
Flower Mound, TX

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