The city council will not allow any potential gas drilling company to fracture their gas wells during the summer months.
That decision came as a change in the revision of the city's oil and gas ordinance that was approved unanimously on first reading Tuesday. A public hearing before the ordinance's second reading and a final vote is set for the council's Oct. 18 meeting. Despite some requests, the public was not allowed to speak during the first reading.
Instead council members spent a better part of the evening methodically going through the ordinance to consider suggested changes from two consultants and a few ideas from among themselves.
Councilman Al Zito suggested that hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, not be allowed during the months of June, July and August because of the city's continuing water shortage caused by drought. Fracking is when the gas company sends millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure down the well to fracture or break open the shale rock, which then releases the trapped natural gas.
"I don't see our water situation getting any better," Zito said of after a summer that saw residents' water use restricted.
While some council members suggested water usage for gas purposes could be regulated through the permitting process, City Attorney E. Allen Taylor said it would have to be done every year that the drilling occurred and would require public hearings and votes by both the planning commission and the council.
In the end, Mayor John Terrell agreed to the summer restriction. "I think that's the way we're going to go," he said.
In January, the council imposed a moratorium on accepting any new requests for drilling permits to allow time for city staff to come up with tighter regulations. That moratorium was extended in June to mid-November.
In the meantime, two previous permit applications by XTO Energy worked their way through the process under the current rules. While the council approved XTO's first request for 18 wells at the Milner Ranch near Texas 114 in a controversial vote, the second request for drilling on the Joe Wright property near Brumlow Avenue and Texas 26 was denied.
Anti- and pro-drilling groups were formed and a lawsuit was filed over the first approval. But that suit was later dropped after XTO decided in April to not pursue drilling in the city.
The ordinance revision continued, however, in case XTO, or some other gas company, decides to try operating in the city again.