Fort Worth City Council to consider waiver for gas wells

FORT WORTH -- A high-stakes dispute over a natural gas drilling site in west Fort Worth is headed to the City Council today.

Chesapeake Energy wants to put four wells on a tract just off Bryant Irvin Road. The site is within 600 feet of 24 houses and 272 feet from the closest home. Residents in Como have joined with Ridglea residents to fight the proposal.

A city ordinance prohibits drill sites within 600 feet of homes unless all the landowners agree, or the council grants a waiver. Red yard signs opposing the site have popped up along three streets in Como, even while Chesapeake is offering up to $7,500 for waivers that would allow the drill site.

The company said it has received more than 900 postcards and online responses in support of the drill site. Chesapeake officials wouldn't say Monday how many waivers they had received.

"I'll have to tell you that tomorrow," said Julie Wilson, the company's vice president for the Barnett Shale. "We've still got the waiver team out there."

Evelyn Washington, who has lived in Como about 35 years, said Chesapeake representatives have contacted her at least 10 times asking her to sign a waiver. The last request came from a local preacher. She said she's still opposed, mostly because of concerns about traffic and the potential for air pollution from the wells.

"The money's not the issue; it's the quality of my life," she said.

Dorothy DeBose, president of the Como Neighborhood Advisory Council, said most residents aren't opposed to gas drilling, they just want it done from elsewhere.

"They just feel like the technology is advanced enough that [Chesapeake] don't have to be in the community to get the gas," she said.

Wilson said the Como site is ideal because it can be used to drill for gas beneath several neighborhoods -- 3,000 acres from Arlington Heights High school in the east to Alta Mere Boulevard in the west. Chesapeake explored nine other sites, but none had equivalent advantages, she said.

"We're confident enough we can do this right and do it respectfully," Wilson said.

City Councilman W.B. "Zim" Zimmerman said, however, that the responses don't take into account the effect on people who live close to the well site.

"When you go look at the letter," he said, "the letter just says 'Are you in favor of drilling?'"

Mike Lee,