Oil and Gas Advisory Committee recommends new safety measures - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Oil and Gas Advisory Committee recommends new safety measures

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

The final meeting of the Oil and Gas Advisory Committee was held on Tuesday night. The committee discussed multiple changes to the city's current drilling ordinance.

Dr. Anne Epstein and Karen Porter, two of the committee members, proposed changes that they believe will improve health and safety.

"The committee discussed a variety of issues tonight," said Oil and Gas Advisory Committee Chairman Zach Brady. "They were issues regarding set back, issues regarding oil and gas operation in the city limits and I think (we) did a reasonable job of going through those issues and trying to make sure we balance the interests of land owners, neighbors and oil and gas producers."

The first topic was a requirement that a well inspector visit sites within the city limits once a year. That proposal failed 6 votes to 3.

The second proposal called for increasing well set backs or how far a well can be drilled from a structure like a home, school, church or water well. The current ordinance says wells have to be drilled at least 300 feet from certain buildings such as homes, schools and daycares. Porter wanted to change that distance to 600 feet It failed 5 votes to 4.

Third, they wanted closed loop systems to be used instead of open pits for wells that are close to structures. That means the water and waste water a drilling site uses would be stored in tanks as opposed to a tarp-lined pit that is dug into the ground. The proposal passed unanimously requiring that closed loop systems be required within 500 feet of a building.

Fourth, they asked that ground water be tested before, during and after drilling. Water testing will not be required unless the water well is known about by the operator and within 300 feet of an oil well. They also wanted companies to disclose what chemicals will be used before hydraulic fracturing. That was struck down because state law allows companies up to 15 days after drilling to disclose that information.

"I think certain members of the commission, certainly personally including myself, don't want to see the City of Lubbock get into the business of regulating activities that are already regulated by the railroad or elsewhere at the state level," Brady said, "We want to make sure that we govern those land uses and that we have land uses that protect neighbors and protect private property owners but we don't want to become yet another regulatory layer."

The fifth big topic that Dr. Epstein and Porter tackled was recommended changes to improve the safety of storage tanks to reduce air pollution. That passed in two parts. The committee recommended that storage tankers have secondary containment and control devices to improve safety and devices to measure and reduce air pollution.

Other changes were discussed that Dr. Epstein described as "minor."

"The recommendations of this group will go to the City Council over the next couple of months and the City Council will then consider the recommendations and decide whether to adopt them as changes to the oil and gas drilling ordinance that governs the operations within city limits," Brady said.

There is no word yet on when exactly the council will take up their recommendations.

Copyright 2014 KCBD. All rights reserved.

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