I have to say something about Denton and their drilling ordinance

by TXsharon on January 19, 2013

in Denton

Sigh. I don’t want to say much about this.

It’s not all bad. Yet. Chris Watts saved the day with a few amendments that will make drilling in Denton more challenging. You can read about the amendments HERE. In looking back over the past four years of watching the council, my opinion is, of the lot, Chris Watts would make the best mayor. He has come a long way.

Compressor stations are allowed in Denton but they are going to be regulated. The question is how in the bloody hell do you regulate a compressor station. No toxic emissions allowed past XXX feet? Oh! Landscaping is required so, whew.

The most disturbing thing is the way Darren Groth, gas well administrator, misrepresents and gives false information. I will have to watch the video of his presentation at least once more because it’s jam-packed with falsehoods. Here are three things I remember off the top of my head at this late hour:

  1. Flaring is not a part of the green completions. The EPA is allowing flaring to continue until 2015 but only because industry threw a fit and claimed the necessary equipment was not available.  TCEQ does not regulate flaring. For that matter, neither does the RRC. It’s a rubber stamp permit. 
  2. Why on earth did he single out class II injection wells? There is something very fishy about what he said on that part.
  3. Why require closed loop systems and allow pits? 

I know there is a lot more.

The DAG group decided to do a very minor (one woman called it tender) act of civil disobedience by not yielding when our three minutes was up. Then, at the last minute, some who agreed changed their minds. I didn’t intend it this way but I was called as the third speaker so I was the first to refuse to yield and was escorted out by the kind officer who has watched this all unfold for the past four years. I felt terrible for him and apologized . I said that he was only doing his job and I was doing mine.

Some of the younger students made personal attacks in their comments. I don’t approve of that but I understand their anger. There is no doubt that the entire process was badly bungled but I didn’t like the personal attacks.

There was one comment that I will never forget.

It was interesting to see the different reactions by the council members and mayor and even more interesting to read Kevin Rhoden’s reaction on Twitter. Complaining about people who call names then calling other people names… When I first starting doing this, I had thin skin too but then I grew up.

Denton has the nicest police officer and police chief I’ve even met. And I know police officers because my grandfather was a detective.

This is not over.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim Ruggiero January 19, 2013 at 11:06 am

I understand the anger, too. I also understand-I think-the reason why some of the people refused to end their comments at the 3 minute mark, but I think in doing so, the ‘drama’ of the disobedience became the focal point and overshadowed anything the speaker said. The Mayor and Council basically stopped listening (assuming they were listening at all) once the personal attacks started and/or the speaker refused to stop at the 3 minute mark.

Unlike some other councils I can think of, such as Fort Worth, Burroughs has been fairly generous when it comes to speaking. He knows that the majority of people who come up to the podium are not polished speakers, and does strike me as giving everyone a chance to say their piece, and does allow people to go over the 3 minute mark-as long as the speaker is ‘wrapping up’.

That said, I have seen some people who…need a script. Otherwise, it’s just a ramble, and their point, if they actually have one, is not made or gets lost. And the name calling and disrespect is not helpful or productive. Just because you are allowed to speak doesn’t mean you should. I’m not trying to silence anyone, and I certainly believe in free speech, but calling the Mayor a ‘terrorist’ was baseless. You can disagree with anyone, but making disparaging remarks or just simply making personal attacks will not get you the change you want. I would suggest next time, come armed with facts, not attacks.

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TXsharon January 19, 2013 at 11:24 am

I thought the mayor was generous. He didn’t want anyone to be escorted out. He was hopeful each time that the speaker would yield. I don’t support calling him or any of them terrorists. I know how it feels to be called that. I do support calling them out on bungling this process. They could have been leaders but instead they were followers and industry led them around.

It was interesting to watch the faces and reactions of the council and hear their reactions in closing comments. Some have very thin skin and others took the hits and kept moving.

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Marc McCord January 22, 2013 at 10:21 am

Tim, I agree with everything you said. I had a hard time following some of the points being made (or attempted) by many of the young speakers whose hearts are in the right place, but whose presentations were long on emotion, yet short on fact.

If one only has 3 minutes in which to speak, then that time needs to be utilized to maximum effect by a factual presentation. Having said that, facts are often overlooked and not considered by city councils and other government bodies, but at least they get in the public record for later use if something is allowed and then goes wrong.

I am not opposed to civil disobedience when it becomes necessary, but planned and staged civil disobedience like was displayed in Denton last week only delayed all following speakers, extended the meeting unnecessarily and resulted in none of the outcome desired. I disagree with the use of name-calling for the sake of name calling. I have called public officials liars in open public meetings, but it was over specific lies they told. Calling the mayor a terrorist was definitely way over the line. It was sophomoric and ineffective, as well as being entirely inaccurate.

The true telling sign is that nobody from the general public ever comes to open meetings and argues in favor of drilling. In Dallas, the ONLY shills for drilling have been the drillers and their PR firms, and that is what I have seen everywhere I have been except Colleyville, where the audience was split just about evenly.

I would suggest that those who come to public meetings understand the issue and organize a campaign based upon facts. Sharon, Raymond, myself and others have provided a plethora of factual information that can be effectively argued, as we have done in Dallas, if that limited time is to be used effectively.

I appreciated your comments, as well as those of Sharon and others. We are older and more experienced in these matters, and we need to continue leading by example so that the younger crowd will see how to make the most effective use of their time. And, on the way home I kept an especially focused eye out for those gas wells between Denton and McKinney on 380, and I saw NONE! Just as you said, the guy on television citing gas wells in Celina is full of it, and he is hoping that nobody else realizes that fact.

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Cathy McMullen January 22, 2013 at 11:14 am

The Denton Off Fossil Folks were not given promised talking points on the night of the council meeting. Left their own devices they filled in the 3 minutes, most times, in an inapproppriate way. There is huge frustration among those of us who have been presenting facts to the council for 4 years. Sorry if anyone got any spew on them.
I am personally making sure the Denton Off Fossil Fuels group has all research they need to make to make articulate, and passionate, presentations in the future. Denton Off Fossil Fuels is involved because they care and not to win re-election, gain job in industry, or because industry has given them something. So as offensive as they seemed to many please remember free speech is a guaranteed right under the Constitution.
Really the outcome had nothing to do with the civil disobedience because the outcome has been decided a long time ago.
I really appreciate your coming to speak at the city council meeting. Sorry you came on a night when all the frustration manifested it’s self in, what many perceive, an inappropriate manner.
The name calling and insulting was inappropriate and many people involved see that now.

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Cathy McMullen January 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm

I have to disagree the council really they stopped listening a long time ago. I went over my 3 minutes, first as protest, and secondly because 3 minutes was not long enough to challenge all the reasons the Darren Groth gave for not implementing our proposed changes to the ordinance. The council was listening because when I told them the refusal to increase the setbacks was based on the fact that Denton measures from the edge of the well site and all other cities measure from the wellhead was false Councilman Gregory Googled it and found I was right and Mr. Groth was wrong. Councilman Watts changed the setbacks to 1200 ft instead of 1000ft.
Yes, the attacks were wrong. The people who changed their minds about going over the three minutes used the personal attacks as the reason for not participating because they did not want to agree with the attacks. According to that rationale they did not also support what those of us who were organized and presented rationale reasons for strengthening the ordinances. They cannot have it both ways. So if I offended anyone I am sorry, kind of. I have personally thanked the mayor and council members for they way they handled the protest. I think Sharon is correct you cannot condemn someone for the very behavior you are exhibiting, as in the case of Mr. Roden.

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Tim Ruggiero January 19, 2013 at 6:53 pm

I think as long as ‘we’ only get 3 minutes-even if the mayor is decent enough to let you go over somewhat, but Industry gets as much time as they need, especially behind closed doors, the meetings will always be lopsided. I’ll bet he never tells Ed Ireland or Groth or anyone from Industry to ‘wrap it up’.

After 4 years, the creation of a Task Force and who knows how many tens of thousands of tax dollars spent on outside consultants, Mayor and Council are still woefully uninformed and misinformed.

Whether you are pro drilling or not, if you’re also the Gas Well Administrator, you have to have your facts straight. It’s THE job.

I was left puzzled as to why the Council doesn’t understand the connection between closed loop systems and pits. I was appalled that Groth also apparently doesn’t know, either, and it’s part of his job to know this stuff. In detail. But instead, Council got bogged down in the different types of pits, rather than questioning the need for them- but that would have required an understanding of Green Completions.

How can the Mayor and Council make decisions on anything gas related if they don’t take the time to truly understand it, and are relying on an Industry heavy task force who is obviously biased?

And at what point does Groth get held accountable?

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TXsharon January 21, 2013 at 4:58 pm

You asked the question I want answered: will Groth be held accountable?

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Marc McCord January 22, 2013 at 10:42 am

I found it incredulous that the audience was told by the mayor that industry did NOT have more time than citizens to lobby the Council and city staff. In fact, they have a LOT more time because they have an open door to personal visits during regular office hours and they present briefings in preparation for public meetings and discussions. I think that citizens need to demand as much time to discuss these matters as is required, even if it means having to hear the issue on multiple days.

If I were the Denton City Manager, then I would fire Darren Groth in a heartbeat because he is either an incompetent, uneducated fool, or else he is a blatant liar. I fail to see how somebody in his position could be so wrong on so many facts, and I find it especially difficult to understand how he can be oblivious to the facts about BLM restrictions on open pits under the Texas Resource Management Plan or the US Fish and Wildlife Service restrictions on open pits to protect wildlife and migratory birds.

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dick January 19, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Back room deals were made and people you would never expect were involved in the making.

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dentonite January 19, 2013 at 5:42 pm

why wait to require green completions?

ed ireland -
“Producers in the Barnett Shale routinely use “green completions” to capture the gas, said Ed Ireland, director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council. Green completions involve using extra equipment to capture the gas and feed it into the pipeline system.”

chip minty –
“Chip Minty, spokesman for Devon Energy Corp., the biggest producer in the Barnett Shale, said Devon has been using green completions in the Barnett for seven or eight years.”

the barnett shale is a proven field so there is no reason for them to not build a pipeline before they start producing gas.
http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/news/2012/04/18/industry-says-new-epa-emissions-rules.html

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Cathy McMullen January 20, 2013 at 12:19 am

The reason the council was talking about the pits so much was because Darren Groth told them a frac pit was only freshwater. This was told to them in a word session by Groth. Of course I slammed that BS the next time I spoke before the council so then Groth told them there would be only freshwater pits. As anyone can read the new ordinances can have pits which contain Benzene, at safe levels (WTF), and flowback. I don’t know how we got to that point. That was why so many people were so angry.
To Dick give me a trail to start following and I will find out the people in those deals.
So far $167,000 for consultants.

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TXsharon January 20, 2013 at 11:50 pm

I learned a little more about this tonight. At the strategy meeting, it was agreed that everyone who wanted to would read from a paper that debunked Darren Groth’s misleading (at best) answers to our 16 questions–over and over again everyone would read the same thing. This paper would be copied and provided for all who needed it. Unfortunately, the person who was going to provide those papers, did not follow through. This meant that many of the speakers had no prepared comments. Left to their own devices, they rambled or expressed their anger.

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GhostBlogger January 21, 2013 at 1:44 am

You bet it’s not over. There may be a “motion from the floor” on this subject:

Oil And Gas Related Earthquakes? Texas Regulators Speak no Evil

http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/2013/01/18/oil-and-gas-related-earthquakes-texas-regulators-speak-no-evil/

Those wells have a lot to do with the uptick in earthquakes, says Cliff Frohlich, a research scientist at the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin. From his office at UT’s J.J. Pickle Research Center, Frohlich recently told the story of how he received calls from reporters asking if the quakes were related to oil and gas when they began in 2008.

“I said, ‘no they don’t have anything to do with oil and gas,’” he remembered. “This is probably the most misinformed statement I’ve ever made publicly.”

“All this stuff had happened and a seismologist like me didn’t know about it,” Frohlich added.

The “stuff” he was talking about is the gas drilling boom that had rolled into North Texas.

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Peggy January 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I was a reporter who called and asked him the question back then. There had been an earthquake in Corinth. We got a lot of calls at the paper.

Johnny Carino (yes, that Johnny Carino) called me to share a description of the water rolling in his pool, just like he’d seen in a California quake.
Even after sharing that information with him in the interview, Frohlich denied the possibility.

But they didn’t have any way to measure in our area, which they do now.

I reported all that, plus that unfortunate Frohlich quote, in the Denton Record-Chronicle.

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Peggy January 21, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I just pulled the story to check my memory and realized that we didn’t report that after all. That quake was in February 2008 in Corinth. I’m putting the citation on my blog shortly.

People were asking whether they were related, but no public official went on the record about it. There was drilling and fracking in the area at that time, but there aren’t any commercial injection wells in Corinth.

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Fracking Crazy January 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm

I still think it’s ridiculous 1200 foot setback.

I know it’s better than 300 or 600

But we really need over a mile…

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Marc McCord January 22, 2013 at 10:34 am

The 1,200 foot setback may not be what you wanted, but it is NOT ridiculous. In Dallas, we were told that a 1,000 foot setback would be a deal-breaker. The cost of acquiring enough land around a pad site for a 1,200 foot setback is enormous, and it raises the production cost of gas from that well substantially making it even less likely to ever be profitable. That can mean drillers will decide not to drill because of the added cost to do so.

Yes, we do need setbacks of a mile. Industry has proven and published that they can drill their laterals up to 5 miles away from the well bore, but it costs a lot more money, so they are never going to do what they have the ability to do, especially when gas is selling for about 30% of its breakeven production cost. The added cost of long laterals would make it an even bigger loser for them.

For now, take 1,200 feet and be happy about it. This is NOT carved in stone. Ordinances can always be amended at any future date. Bear in mind that you cannot retroactively compel compliance with changes after a well has been permitted, but you can affect how future permits are issued and under what terms they are pursued.

Above all else, push for NO WAIVERS to the 1,200 foot setback rule! If a waiver is available, then every driller will push for it on every well he drills. Make sure that your ordinance stipulates NO WAIVERS.

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Fracking Crazy January 23, 2013 at 7:41 am

Oh darn….

A deal breaker….

When you know where the plume falls….

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