Colleyville approves first drilling permit for gas wells

COLLEYVILLE -- Titan Operating won approval late Tuesday for the first gas-drilling permit in this affluent Northeast Tarrant County community, ending months of debate over its request to drill on the city's northern end near Southlake.

The City Council unanimously approved Titan's plan to drill up to 14 natural gas wells on 13.2 acres at 7404 and 7504 Pleasant Run Road. That property is owned by the Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana Inc. of California.

The drilling may begin early next year. Although no pipeline company has applied for a construction permit, though officials expect one to do so now.

"It's been a long road," a visibly relieved Chris Hammack, Titan's vice president of operations, said after the meeting. "Hopefully it shows that we will be a good neighbor."

Assuming that a pipeline plan is approved, Hammack said, the company wants to drill three wells in January to determine the area's productivity, with others to follow. Under the approved permit, Titan will have five years to drill all 14 wells.

The company's first request for a permit was filed about a year ago, but Titan had to move the proposed drill site twice to avoid being within 1,000 feet of homes in Southlake and private parkland along Big Bear Creek.

Council members said the city's recently adopted drilling ordinance, coupled with state and federal regulations, will balance the rights of the company and mineral lease holders and the health and safety of Colleyville residents.

Mayor Pro Tem Jon Ayers called the city's regulations the "most restrictive land-use ordinance" in the area.

"I think what we've tried to do here effectively as a city and effectively as a council is to put in as many reasonable safeguards as possible to protect the public at large and the property rights of our citizens to receive the royalties," he said.

Those safeguards include air and water testing before the start of drilling, as well as monitoring during the drilling and production phases and noise restrictions. The company asked for a number of variances, including for flaring, or burning, of gas into the air, but the ordinance does not permit that. The council did not include the variances in the final motion.

During the public hearing, some speakers urged the council to require Titan to use vapor recovery units to capture chemicals that might escape into the air.

While Hammack said those units are not necessary since the natural gas found under Colleyville is "dry," Ayers pointed out that the ordinance says that if the city's inspector determines the units are needed, the company must use them.

Matt Cleaves, a drilling opponent who lives in Southlake near the proposed site, said he was concerned about having an "industrial process" in a residential area.

"It will be surrounded by hundreds of homes," he said. Although Cleaves said people have signed gas leases, "that does not mean I gave up my rights."

But Grady Walker, who led a coalition of property owners that negotiated lease signings, said the drilling will take place only on 2 acres, leaving the rest of the property as is.

"They will have landscaping and fencing," he said of Titan's plan.

With more than 4,000 homeowners having signed leases, "we have confidence in [Titan] as a partner," he said.

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