Tuesday, October 22, 2013
City of Denton filed complaint against Dallas-based drilling company
Denton is one of several Texas cities wrangling with questions about where to allow drilling and how strictly to regulate the practice.
A North Texas city is seeking a restraining order against a local driller, alleging the company is working on two natural gas wells without the city’s permission.
In a complaint filed Friday in the Denton County District Court, the city of Denton says EagleRidge Energy, a Dallas-based company, ignored the city's demands to stop working on wells about 5 miles southwest of downtown. The city never permitted the development, the complaint says, and the wells lie too close to housing development, violating city rules.
“Defendants’ actions are being performed in flagrant disregard of the city’s right and duty to enforce its codes and ordinances,” the complaint says. “Without the intervention of this court, defendants are likely to continue such illegal operations.”
Representatives from EagleRidge and Denton declined to comment on the pending litigation. A Denton County district judge dismissed the city’s request for an immediate restraining order on Friday. The case will now go to trial, with a hearing set for October 30.
Denton, with a population of more than 121,000 and growing, is one of several Texas cities wrangling with questions about where to allow drilling and how strictly to regulate the practice. Disputes have pitted drillers and other mineral owners against residents who are concerned about impacts on the environment, roads and public health.
States, along with the federal government, regulate most aspects of drilling, including well integrity, pipeline safety, and air and water impact. But cities have sought to regulate noise and to control the location of wells or related sites like compressor stations.
Last January, Denton updated its drilling rules, which included adding 200 feet to its previous 1,000-foot buffer between homes, schools, parks and hospitals. Local public health and environmental groups, however, say that the updates don’t go far enough in regulating new wells and that they allow companies to continue working on wells drilled under the old rules.
Adam Briggle, a University of North Texas philosophy professor who has pushed for stricter regulations, said he’s particularly concerned about the construction of neighborhoods a few hundred feet away from existing wells. The city’s buffer rules apply only to new wells — not new buildings.
“It’s frustrating,” said Briggle, whose blog broke the news about Denton’s restraining order request.
EagleRidge received permits from the Railroad Commission of Texas and Denton’s fire department, according to Denton's complaint, but the company never applied for a gas well “site plan,” which the city requires before drilling. According to the city's complaint, EagleRidge apparently thought a permit from an 11-year-old well nearby granted it permission to drill the new wells, which sit fewer than 600 feet from two neighborhoods.
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