News Column

Lubbock Council to Consider Fracking on City Lease

Jan. 31, 2013

Adam D. Young, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas

A proposal to perform hydraulic fracturing on city property in northeast Lubbock could add $400,000 annually to a lease that brings the city $1 million per year.

But some are concerned about the potential environmental impact of expanding drilling on the land at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and North Loop 289.

Fort Worth-based Texland Petroleum's request to expand its oil drilling operation to a horizontal, hydraulic fracturing well faces a gauntlet of mixed opinions from nearby residents, businesses and the Lubbock City Council, which plans to consider the request during its meeting Thursday at City Hall.

David Haynes said he's not aware of any problems posed by the well Texland has operated on the 40 acres of city land across Erskine Street from his home in King's Dominion.

But he doesn't want to try his luck with an expanded oil operation, and the noise, pollution and earthquake threat he fears possible.

"I think it would be an impediment to growth in the neighborhood," said Haynes, a director of the North & East Lubbock Community Development Corp.

Haynes said didn't hear about Texland's request to use hydraulic fracturing until Wednesday, but opposed the company's previous requests to expand its operations on the site by adding more wells, concerned having oil wells across the street will stifle people from moving into the subdivision.

His neighbor, Elma Bridges, said she hadn't heard of the proposed project and didn't want to offer an opinion. Others in the neighborhood were not home or declined to talk Wednesday morning.

Proponents of the agreement, including Mayor Glen Robertson, say the proposed hydraulic fracturing process would use a fraction of the fluid and be safer than other wells in the state.

"To me, it's a no brainer," Robertson said. "We expect revenue to go up significantly from this and it has nothing to do with the fracking people have been worried about in the shale play in the Permian Basin."

Texland has operated a well on the city land it's leased since 1984, paying the city production royalties.

The city received about $1 million in 2012 and $1.1 million in 2011, according to data provided by the city.

Texland requests an amendment to its pooling agreement, allowing for a horizontal drilling operation to retrieve hard-to-get oil about 5,200 feet below the surface in the Clearfork formation.

Texland did not return Avalanche-Journal requests for comment Wednesday.

But a copy of the company's amendment proposal states it seeks to drill horizontally and fracture the formation with pressurized fluid in hopes of increasing production.

The proposed horizontal well would have a concrete seal through 1,600 feet -- three to four times more than the 400- to 500-foot level protected at other wells in Lubbock, according to a city staff report accompanying the resolution to the council.

Texland proposes using about 5,500 gallons of fluid per stage, estimating about 55,000 gallons compared with about 2.5 million gallons of water used on average at wells in the Barnett Shale in north and central Texas.

The lease is across Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Estacado High, making it crucial the city council consider the potential health, safety and environmental impacts, according to Armando Gonzales, a community activist and East Lubbock resident.

"It would be highly irresponsible for the city of Lubbock to allow any risk to public students, not to mention the nearby neighborhoods with toxic chemicals and the tremendous noises of fracking," he said.

Mark Ivey, owner of Ivey Gardens greenhouse on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, said he is encouraged by Texland's proposed expansion.

"I don't see a problem with any type of oil income," he said. "Anything to help Lubbock is a good thing."

Ivey said Texland has operated a small oil well on his property for several years and believes increasing energy production will help in efforts to strengthen the nation's energy security.

Councilman Victor Hernandez said he expects the council will approve the agreement, but opposes opening the lease to fracturing due to potential consequences on the environment and residents' health.

Hernandez said he'd prefer the council have guidelines from the Lubbock Board of Health before permitting fracturing operations on city land -- an issue the board has discussed since August.

This winter, the board heard several presentations on the potential environmental and health hazards posed by fracturing, including increased levels of methane in groundwater and noise pollution.

As part of anti-fracturing group West Texas Accountability Project Lubbock, Gonzales presented the board with a list of ordinances aimed to mitigate risks. His proposals include a 1,500-foot setback between residential areas and wells, regulations on chemicals and requiring sound barriers.

Councilman Floyd Price, whose District 2 includes the lease, said he hasn't decided how he'll vote.

"I'll wait and see what the pros and cons are and see if constituents have anything to say," he said.

Robertson, who said he does not expect to attend the public session of today's meeting, said he believes allowing Texland to expand its operation is good business for the city that won't put citizens at risk.

"But our job is to discuss it openly at the meeting so the citizens can hear what's going on," he said.

Texland must still apply for and receive both a state and city permit before drilling operations under the new production plan begin.

If the council rejects the agreement, Texland still can seek a "forced pool" with the Texas Railroad Commission, though Robertson said he believes the legal costs of pursuing action through the commission would make that route unattractive.

There are more than 100 wells operating within the city limits, and Lubbock is the lessor for several, though many are not operating.

Last March, the city council approved a $2.19 million contract with Four Sevens Exploration Co. to lease mineral rights near Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport and city-owned farmland in East Lubbock.

As part of the contract, Four Sevens leased the mineral rights from the city for about 6,262 acres, giving the city's wastewater department $1.03 million, solid waste $433,139 and the airport $729,915.

Additionally, the city is entitled to 25 percent of all royalties.

Fracturing operations have not begun at the locations.



Source: (c)2013 the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas) Distributed by MCT Information Services


Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters