FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The City Council voted down an effort Tuesday to tighten laws on natural gas operations in Fort Worth.
The rules would have required drillers to get more permits for sites with several wells. Current sites would not be grandfathered in under the old rules. And two lakes would be added to areas considered protected from drilling.
Protecting residents from the impact of drilling was driving the effort to reign in the added regulations, but protecting jobs in a struggling economy looks to have won out.
Industry employees packed city council chambers on Oct. 18 during a public hearing on the proposal. They made the case that it would slow business.
For drilling employees like Steven Anderson, the council went with the only choice that made sense.
“Those people who are out there working, they’re not on your welfare lines, they’re not in your unemployment lines, they’re not drawing a check every month, they’re out there contributing,” Anderson said Tuesday.
Anderson helps manage 400 wells for Chesapeake Energy from their field office at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
He just moved to the area this year and is married with a young son. After a career in offshore, far flung locations, he wants to stay in North Texas.
He said he’s not the only one with a similar story.
“Further restrictions are going to mean there will be less people we’ll call upon to get the work done,” he said.
Balancing the impact of the industry with its impact on the economy is now becoming a difficult decision in cities everywhere, experts say. Dallas still doesn’t allow hydraulic fracturing, and Southlake banned the practice during the rigidly dry summer months.
“Rig counts are going down because natural gas isn’t a good price,” said Ken Morgan, director of the Tucker Energy Institute at Texas Christian University. “They can go someplace else and take those rigs, but how fast do you want to see those rigs move out of here?”
Fort Worth’s decision surprised neighborhood leaders who worked for months to try to dampen the effect they say drilling is having on home values in the area.
“That’s not good for them,” said Libby Willis, president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods Association. “It’s not good for the city’s tax base. It’s probably ultimately not good for industry.”
The council did agree to extend a moratorium for another six months on disposing wastewater from drilling in the city.
That ban, in place since 2006, was scheduled to end this month.