by A.C. Hall
Council delivered a surprising vote against new Chesapeake drilling on Tuesday night when three members voted down a motion that would’ve approved six new wells. The six new wells were targeted for the Castleberry site on the far north part of town. A drilling expert working for the city stated that the applications from Chesapeake were in compliance with the City’s ordinance.
A public hearing was held on the matter, with four individuals speaking. First was a representative of Castleberry Baptist Church, which is located just a few hundred feet from the well site. She stated that they were excited about the new drilling and that Chesapeake had been a good neighbor to them.
The rest of the comments towards Chesapeake weren’t so supportive, with several individuals mainly taking aim at the royalty payments. One land owner detailed their struggles to get Chesapeake to communicate with them, saying that they improperly clump his properties together when sending out royalties.
Another citizen mentioned the amount of deductions and taxes coming out of the royalty checks, saying they believed something’s not right about how much is being pulled out of the checks.
The final speaker delved deeper into Chesapeake’s business actions, claiming that the company has sold off assets to foreign companies. They also mentioned that the long term effects of drilling are unknown.
Council member Danny Anderson stated that making sure people are getting the royalty checks they deserve remains a priority, and that he’s working to hold Chesapeake accountable on fixing that process. There are also efforts underway to get city staff members trained on certain Chesapeake matters so they’ll be better equipped to help citizens understand the complicated royalty process.
Kevin Strawser of Chesapeake was on hand at the meeting, and he addressed several issues. He encouraged those who are having issues to contact him directly, while also speaking at length about the importance of natural gas and Chesapeake’s commitment to the city.
“As far as White Settlement goes, I feel like we’ve done everything we can at this point to do the most responsible thing,” Strawser said.
He said this includes having a blanket insurance bond on the site, landscaping, having a gas inspector inspect the site, and having up to date safety equipment.
With the public hearing section of this item closed, council later returned to the item for possible action. Chesapeake was seeking approval of their permit application for the six new wells, but council member Steve Ott asked to address the issue first.
Ott started by mentioning that Chesapeake has been a good partner to the city, but moved on to several concerns he had. He spoke briefly about the earthquakes in Azle and Springtown, but acknowledged that there’s no definitive evidence that the drilling and fraccing practices are causing earthquakes.
Ott’s main concern came from the water usage that comes from each new well, saying it takes around 4 million gallons of water per well, meaning the total amount of water used if the six wells are approved is 24 million gallons. With the council preparing to adopt water conservation and restrictions later in the meeting, Ott spoke about the tough situation this massive water use for drilling raised.
“We are going to ask the citizens to conserve water and yet we’re going to allow Chesapeake to waste it. Because once they use that water, you’ll never get it back. It’s gone,” Ott said.
He went on to say that after being used in the drilling process, the water gets injected deep back into the earth, but that it’s more “poison” than water at that point.
“Eventually it’s going to work its way back up into the aquifer,” Ott said. “Hopefully by the time it gets there it’s been filtered and it’s good water.”
After voicing these concerns, Ott laid out what he believes should be the course of action towards drilling.
“Personally, I would like to see a moratorium on any new drilling in the city,” Ott said, asking that the moratorium last until the Texas Railroad Commission makes determinations about drilling.
Ott was told that he couldn’t make a motion for a moratorium, but would instead need to focus his motion on the matter of the permit applications that were before the council. He then made a motion to say no to the applications. No other council member seconded the motion, therefore it died.
Anderson then made a motion to approve the permit applications from Chesapeake. That motion was defeated as Ott, Gene Hatcher, and Mike Arnold voted against it. Anderson and Elzie Clements voted in favor of the motion.
Some confusion followed the vote, as Strawser approached the podium and spoke again as Mayor Burns tried to move on to the next agenda item. Strawser tried to get the matter reopened, as he appeared to interpret comments made by one council member as regret over the vote. He was informed that the matter could only be reopened if a council member believed they had voted in error, but with no council member stating such the item was officially closed.
Chesapeake will be able to reapply for permits at a later date if they so wish. Council member Arnold mentioned the need for further discussion on the matter of drilling.
Water Conservation plan approved
As a major customer of Fort Worth water, White Settlement is required to pass any water conservation plans that Fort Worth does. Fort Worth recently passed such a plan, making permanent some restrictions that were already in place. This plan will limit watering to two days a week and looks to reduce water usage to 150 gallons per person in a home per day by the year 2025.
“We’ll get used to brown lawns,” Mayor Burns said.
Council voted unanimously to pass the restrictions.
Ethics violation investigation moving forward
Meeting in a closed door executive session, council considered possible action against council member Elzie Clements for alleged ethics violations. Clements chose not to attend the closed door meeting.
Details about the alleged violation were not made available, but when council reconvened in open session, they voted 3 – 1 to move forward with the issue as the Ethics Commission. Clements abstained from the vote, while Anderson voted against it.
City Secretary Amy Arnold provided additional insight into what this vote meant, saying that without an Ethics Commission in place, council voted to name themselves as the Ethics Commission in this matter. They will move forward with looking into the alleged violation. Since he too is a member of council, it’s unclear from the wording of the motion if Clements himself is also a member of this Ethics Commission or if he’ll be required to abstain from participating.
For more information on this situation, pick up next week’s Grizzly Detail as we’ll delve deeper into the alleged violation and the process that is being used to look into it.
Parking upgrades coming to Veterans Park
With the opening of Hawaiian Falls looming, city staff spoke about the influx of vehicles that will soon be at Veterans Park. The proposed plan would cost $236,000 to put in four additional parking areas at Veterans Park. The plan will look at improving the existing overflow parking, adding in bus parking near the hotel, extending the existing parking lot to further wrap around the softball field fence, and extending the parking near the flag pole.
Also a part of this item was to improve the storm water area near the entrance to the park as well as a storm water area at Central Park.
There was an ongoing discussion about where to get the money to carry out these improvements. Tapping into leftover money from a past bond was mentioned as City staff tried to identify if they were allowed to use certain leftover funds for this type of a project.
“There is enough money to go around without it effecting the budget and legally do so, it’s just in how you shape it,” EDC Director Jim Ryan said.
Council voted unanimously to approve the project with staff instructed to fund it out of the appropriate accounts.
“It fits together like a puzzle, but it’s there,” Ryan said as he assured the council of the funding.
Pick up next week’s Grizzly Detail as we finish up coverage of this marathon four hour meeting.