I recently read where LISD’s Board of Trustees weigh the risks of gas development as too great and will not pursue gas leases for district owned land. Unfortunately those published reports did not detail the risks that are driving this decision; it only said they were unknown. Despite the knowledge that all air quality tests conducted in Flower Mound have had good results, many persist in their claims of concern. I assert that the risk of doing nothing does not reduce these unknown risks nor will it reduce the concerns of those who persist in their opposition of all things gas.
Risk One – Existing gas development encroaching upon school property
There are already a number of pad sites operating close to school property. These wells meet or exceed all local and state regulations. They are extracting gas from property adjacent to district property. If the district were to negotiate a lease, they could dictate enhancements to these existing operations. They could insist upon installation of constant monitoring equipment and vapor recovery systems. Both would provide additional safeguards. Without a lease negotiation, LISD has no leverage to impact these kinds of improvements.
Risk Two – Future Gas Development Encroachment
The district could require, through a negotiated lease agreement, that future pad sites accessing district gas resources be located further away from district property than current or future statutes would require. This would address the concerns of those who believe the existing set backs are too lenient. And since these would be part of a contractual agreement between the developer and district, they could not be reduced by the actions of a city or town. Without negotiation, pad sites will continue to be located just beyond the established set back limits as they are today.
Risk Three – Fiduciary Responsibility
The school board is tasked to responsibly protect and utilize the financial resources of the district. Doing nothing is not a responsible action. Should the district continue on its current course, programs will be cut, staff reduced and class sizes increased for reasons not based on facts but instead on some unknown risks. As you are certainly aware, other districts in the Barnett have embraced gas development. Tarrant County’s Birdville ISD has created a $7 million endowment with its natural gas revenue. An endowment used to help students pay for college.
All of this boils down to either doing Something or Nothing. Both carry risk, but I assert doing Nothing is far riskier than doing something. Doing something gives the district leverage: leverage to improve safety, leverage to keep future pad sites away from schools, leverage to maximize the District’s resources for the benefit of all those served.
And most importantly, leverage to carry out the districts primary responsibility by providing resources to educate the children who live in LISD. Published estimates of royalty payments could pay salaries for eight – ten teachers; ten teaching positions that won’t be cut, ten classes that won’t have to be increased in size.
Doing something is the right thing to do. Doing something provides the greatest benefit for all district residents and addresses the concern of those who believe they will be impacted by new development. Doing nothing provides no benefit and mitigates none of the existing risk. Doing nothing simply leaves the district making deeper cuts than they have to and students bearing the costs of those cuts.
Bryan C. Webb
Flower Mound, TX