Mansfield News

Mansfield moves closer to gas restrictions

Residents demanding tougher restrictions on gas well drilling pushed the City Council again Monday for much wider buffer zones separating wells from the public, but the council appeared unwilling to oblige.

By a 7-0 vote on the second of three required readings, the council backed proposed revisions of a city ordinance that include monitoring and testing for air quality and seismic activity, but not increased buffer zones.

The vote followed a second public hearing on the ordinance. The council will host a third public hearing before casting its final vote, scheduled for March 23.

Speakers, many of them members of Mansfield Gas Well Awareness, a local advocacy group, supported a 1,500-foot setback between well sites and homes, churches and other protected property uses. They raised safety and nuisance issues.

“I think the ordinance still reflects old science,” said Tamera Bounds, one of the group’s founders, who has presented studies indicating that proximity to well operations aggravates or can cause health problems ranging from asthma to birth defects and cancer.

Ed Ireland, executive director of Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, said the natural gas-rich region has created more than 100,000 jobs and about $11 billion annually in economic benefits. He said the industry, which has drilled 20,000 wells in the Barnett Shale, has a good safety record for working in an area where several million people live.

“If there had been any adverse health effects, it would have gotten worldwide attention,” he said.

The proposed ordinance maintains the existing 600-foot minimum separation for well sites. City Attorney Allen Taylor and other officials said that anything close to a 1,500-feet buffer would effectively ban drilling in the city and prompt lawsuits.

The proposed regulations would be the ordinance’s fifth revision. It includes more extensive emergency planning. And it extends the ban on Sunday fracking to include holidays; on Saturdays, fracking would be banned within 1,000 feet of a proctected property use.

Mayor David Cook said air analysis and other monitoring practices will allow the city to collect data and forward them to the Texas Commission on Environmental Protection.

“The city has no enforcement capability” for pollution issues, Cook said.

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641

Twitter: @Kaddmann