Thursday, September 8, 2011
Southlake residents sound off on gas drilling
In the relatively brief history of Southlake, there has never been a more explosive or divisive issue.
By Flickr user Mike Austin
The Southlake City Council continues to walk a delicate tightrope as it grapples with the decision of whether or not to allow natural gas drilling in the city limits.
In an unusual move Tuesday night, the council took its work session public and heard from several dozen citizens who were both for and against drilling in the city.
In the relatively brief history of Southlake, there has never been a more explosive or divisive issue for the city and, to its credit, the council seems to be doing its due diligence.
Before the public hearing, Southlake City Attorney Allen Taylor put the decision into a legal prospective for the council.
"You cannot protect the surface estate to the detriment of the mineral estate," he said. "And, if you take the mineral estate, you have to pay the estate owners for those minerals."
Each speaker was allowed three minutes to speak during the pubic forum and many made good points both for and against the drilling project.
Some pointed out how drilling for natural gas could help the city out of a budget shortfall and provide much needed additional revenue for Southlake's schools, businesses and homeowners.
Others urged the council to put people before profits, pointing out some of the dangers and potential environmental pitfalls of natural gas drilling.
Some of it, said one young mother, is getting personal.
"I've had some of the nastiest letters and other things left on my door because I'm against this drilling project," said one young mother who spoke at Tuesday's meeting. "So many people have made this issue personal, but the future of our children is at stake here."
During Tuesday night's meeting, the council was considering possible changes in the drilling ordinance. One of those changes would change the setback of a gas drill from 1,000 feet away from an inhabitable facility to 1,500 feet away from an inhabitable facility.
"The council really has a difficult job, but I just hope they don't let a handful of people ruin this project for the people who want to drill for gas on their own property," said long-time Southlake resident John Van Son, 83. "The minority seems to be ruling here, and that's not the way it should be."
Van Son added that it's not a private property issue.
"This drilling issue is not a private property issue because a gas well affects people all around you," he said. "So, I can understand why the council wants to get as much input as it can before making a decision on this. But I do wish they would get on with it. How many more studies do they need? I will say that if they change that setback limit from 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet, that will effectively kill the gas drilling project because it will be very hard to find many places in Southlake to drill that are farther than 1,500 feet away from any inhabitable facilities."
To watch some of the video from Tuesday night's meeting, including some footage from all those who spoke in favor and against the gas drilling project, go to www.cityofsouthlake.com.
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