Arlington OKs first of 11 gas wells

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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ARLINGTON -- The Arlington City Council narrowly gave preliminary approval Tuesday night to the first of 11 additional natural gas wells planned near the municipal airport.

The council voted 5-4 to approve Chesapeake Energy's request for a gas well permit at the so-called Rocking Horse drill site at 4945 S. Collins St. near Caplin Drive.

Council members Robert Rivera, Kathryn Wilemon, Lana Wolff and Charlie Parker voted no.

The south Arlington drill site, originally approved by the city in October 2009, has one operating well that has generated about $1 million in royalties, Chesapeake representative Lynda Gearheart told council members. The well has 1,400 mineral-rights owners.

Two residents spoke in support of the requested permit; seven residents spoke against it. Among the opponents were a few residents who staged a protest Monday afternoon in front of the Childcare Network, a day-care center 359 feet from the boundary of Chesapeake's drilling zone.

Resident Ranjana Bhandari told the council that the city should follow its gas drilling ordinance, which requires drill zone boundaries to be at least 600 feet from protected structures like homes and day-care centers.

"I urge that we act with caution and not jump into drilling this close to young children," Bhandari said, citing health concerns related to hydraulic fracturing of wells.

A house and an office building are also within 600 feet of the proposed drilling zone, which is the minimum distance required unless the driller can obtain written consent from at least 70 percent of affected property owners. Chesapeake has met that threshold, according to a city staff report.

Resident Pat Struble said she signed up for drilling in her neighborhood because she supports America having energy independence.

But she told council members that she and her neighbors have felt vibrations in recent weeks and that she is concerned about whether they're linked to the Rocking Horse well site.

"I am not the only one in the neighborhood that is feeling this," Struble said.

Gearheart said that the well was drilled in 2010 and that gas has been flowing since then. The only activity is a daily visit from a worker in a half-ton pickup, she said. "We've had no drilling operations," she said.

She also said Chesapeake will install a surveillance camera, as required by the city, within 30 days of permit approval for the well.

Jim Parajon, the city's director of community development and planning, told the council that the city will not issue a permit if the drill site violates the ordinance.

Before giving preliminary approval to the permit, the council gave final approval to Chesapeake's request to expand the Rocking Horse drill site by about 2.3 acres.

At its Jan. 22 meeting, the council narrowly approved the expanded boundaries 5-3, with Rivera, Wolff and Wilemon voting no.

After public hearings, the council unanimously approved gas well permits Tuesday for the Lenox drill site at West Poly Webb and West Pleasant Ridge roads and the Steeples drill site at 7102 Bowman Springs Road north of Interstate 20.

Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578

Twitter: @susanschrock

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