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by Thomas La Point and Vicki Oppenheim Members of the Denton Gas Well Task Force April 24, 2012
Introduction We are writing this “minority report” to provide the Denton City Council with viewpoints and information on important action items that were not approved by the Denton Task Force. The citizen input has overwhelmingly declared that several topics are of great importance to the community: composition of the Task Force and procedures, air quality, water quality, noise, public notification, and facility location and distances. We assert that these topics will be increasingly important to the Denton community, as gas wells and related facilities continue to locate in a highly urbanized area. The City of Denton population is projected to grow from 113,383 people in 2010 and a density of 1194.8 persons per square mile to 207,334 people and a corresponding increasing density by 20301. Gas production facilities are allowed to locate in all zoning districts, though some facilities require a Specific Use Permit and others are allowed “by right.” Gas drilling and production facilities are an industrial use. They are not treated, however, like most other industrial facilities that would be predominantly restricted by use to industrial zoning districts, unless already in operation prior to the ordinance or annexed to the City. Gas drilling facilities may locate in residential neighborhoods and near protected uses, as long as they meet distance requirements outlined in the Denton Development Code.2 One other aspect important to development of a revised ordinance for the City of Denton has been the recent concern expressed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) on the contribution to overall poor air quality by natural gas development. It should be recognized that Denton is growing in population density. Hence, it is incumbent on the city administration to seek to protect human health. The authors of this minority report recognize that each well must be individually managed by a proper ordinance. However, there must be thought given to the density of wells in an urban area. There should be thought given to optimizing (rather than maximizing) the number of production facilities within the City boundaries. Operational constraints, such as incorporating multiple well heads at one site, directional (horizontal) drilling, and such should be considered whenever possible. We suggest that great care should be taken in updating Chapter 22 of the Denton Development
Denton Economic Development Partnership website, accessed April 8, 2012.http:// www.dentonedp.com/business_location/demographics_data_population.asp 2 See Discussion paper by Vicki Oppenheim.
Code to ensure that the best possible practices are implemented for all categories of action items, and especially since many wells are located in residential districts.
Issues for Further Consideration Task Force Composition and Procedures We feel that the Task Force should have consisted of more Denton citizens, and there should have been more members. This would have allowed better representation from the citizens. A larger Task Force would also have led to more opportunities to learn about gas production processes and fully vet citizen concerns. Task forces in other cities took the opportunities to have field trips and presentations from both industry consultants and conservation groups. All this would be better for public education. Air Quality Air quality is one of the greatest concerns to the Denton community. We suggest that every possible action should be taken to implement best practices to reduce emissions during the gas drilling and production phases. Although the USEPA has just passed new regulations for air quality and gas drilling, most do not go into effect until 2015. Some regulations have caveats that only apply in certain instances: ● glycol dehydrator restrictions only apply for facilities that are classified as “major sources” and ● storage tanks emissions reductions are limited to facilities with VOC emissions of 6 tons per year.3 We suggest that the City of Denton should adopt air quality measures to protect public health and reduce odor nuisances.
Compressor Stations and Pipelines Large compressor station facilities are of great concern to the Denton community. Other nearby communities, such as Dish, Texas, have had considerable problems with such facilities. We suggest that either these facilities should not be allowed in residential districts or within a significant distance from protected uses, or expanded regulations should be enacted to ensure that air quality, water quality and noise levels are addressed. We propose that any new, large compressor facilities should only be allowed to locate in industrial zoning districts and should be located at least 2000 feet from any protected use. The rationale for this is that these facilities are the most problematic in the sense of noise, emissions, and community aesthetics. We suggest that there is further investigation into the types and sizes of compressor station facilities or complexes. (This is one of those situations where a field trip or presentation to the Task
New USEPA regulations, released April 17, 2012 http://www.EPA.gov/airquality/oilandgas/actions.html
Force, for educational purposes, would have been highly beneficial) Where condensates are produced, emissions need to be minimized to legal limits using vapor recovery, dehydration units. These should be best available technology (BAT), including recovery units that recover BTEX. Well Integrity As gas wells continue to age in Denton, with many currently over 10 years old, the issue of well integrity over time will become more important. Most recently, well integrity monitoring and testing has been brought to the forefront of national discussion in the USEPAs current national study on hydraulic fracturing. One definition in the USEPA case-study materials is: “Well Integrity Narrowly Defined as the Prevention of Fluids Migration into Protected Water” In March 2011, the USEPA held technical workshops on well integrity. Industry representative provided information on recommended practices.4 We suggest that well integrity factors and best practices, along with other measures, should be considered to ensure the preservation of well integrity and protect water resources in Denton. Redefine Permit We propose that a drilling permit be valid only for active drilling purposes. Should a well become inactive (for a period of one to three years, for example), there should be notification for the re-start and a new permit should be required. The permit requirements, at the point of re-permitting, should require any new best available practices that have come about during the period of inactiviity.
(See also Power Point presentation from Gas Well Task Force, Water Quality) Dormant wells Dormant Wells: if there has not been any drilling activity at a well pad or gas drilling production facility for a period of two years, the operators shall notify all residents, property owners, and business owners within 1500 feet. Water Quality There should be no releases to any surface waters (e.g., wetland, stream, river, etc.) from surface drilling ponds. There should be a mitigation plan for any such releases and such releases must be reported. The operators shall ensure that cleanup of any spill is quickly and fully implemented. We suggest that closed-loop drilling operations would be best for minimizing the chances of both air and water pollution.
USEPA Well Integrity Theme
The potential pathways of water contamination are currently being studied by the USEPA 5. We support the inclusion of Chapter 22 revisions that protect both surface and groundwater. Well integrity is particularly relevant to water quality. Noise Noise is a nuisance that can significantly alter the quality of life in residential neighborhoods and mixed-use districts in the City. The current noise standards in the gas well ordinance do not adequately address ambient noise standards. All operators should be required to submit ambient noise studies. We suggest that gas well operators should mitigate for noise levels above the ambient noise levels as provided in baseline testing. It will be up to the gas well operators to find the most efficient and effective method of noise mitigation. We strongly recommend that the noise levels should not exceed 3db above ambient at night or 5db above ambient in the daytime. Other cities are beginning to address different types of frequencies and provide for measuring and monitoring of those frequencies. The City should seek to minimize low frequency noise stemming from these sites. Public Notification GIS data from submitted CAD drawings and other sources should be readily available to the public for pipelines and gas drilling and production facilities. All operators should be required to submit such data to the CIty of Denton. If similar data is submitted to the Railroad Commission of Texas, it should be relatively simple to submit the same data to the City. These detailed data will enable the City to better plan future development as well as coordinate proposed development projects with existing pipeline facilities.
On-Site requirements On-site spills have occurred in the CIty of Denton. Spills may occur that are not reportable to State or Federal agencies. In any case, all reportable quantities should be cleaned up to predevelopment conditions and adequate soil and/or water testing should be provided to the City to ensure that spills are adequately cleaned up. The remediation standards should be based upon current allowable limits of BTEX or VOCs in soils and water.
USEPA's Study of Hydraulic Fracturing
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