With pressure building for stricter controls on gas well operations, the City Council on Wednesday night brought together members of a vocal neighborhood group and representatives of several drilling companies and two state agencies to discuss well-related complaints and possible solutions.
The three-hour round-table discussion included a seat for Mansfield Gas Well Awareness, a group of northwest Mansfield residents lobbying the city to toughen noise and odor regulations and further restrict where drilling can occur.
The meeting was officially a special council work session to help the city explore what changes the city ordinance might need.
Mayor David Cook said he expected that possible revisions could be ready for council consideration by mid-January.
The residents group, which originated in the Woodlands Estates near the Mansfield school district’s Center for the Performing Arts — where the meeting was held — is calling for greater distance between well sites and residences, businesses, day care centers and hospitals.
The group says Mansfield’s required 600-foot setback is insufficient, saying something closer to 1,500 feet would be adequate.
Members have been emboldened by Denton voters who on Nov. 4 banned fracking within the city limits. Fracking is the practice of forcing sand, water and chemicals into a well hole to crack open the shale rock and release natural gas.
Group President Tamera Bounds said the city ordinance approved in 2007 is outdated. “They were written before the science was there,” she said. “The science is there now.”
She pointed to several studies showing links between ailments and proximity to well sites. In June, the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project reported unhealthy airborne particles inside residential homes located near drilling and fracking operations, she said.
Other studies she cited linked increased infant deaths to a dense network of oil and gas wells near Vemal, Utah, and detected high levels of methane, benzene and other volatile organic compound (VOC) over oil and gas drilling operations in Colorado.
Representatives of at least eight gas exploration companies attended the meeting. Those who spoke said they would work with residents and the city during the ordinance review.
“We want to be a partner in maintaining reasonable standards that protect residents and our employees in Mansfield and allow the oil and gas industry to continue to contribute to this community,” Jim Lightner, chief executive of Beacon E & P Co., said in statement.