Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Group wants Southlake to ease restrictions on gas drilling | Local News | News from Fort...

By Nicholas Sakelaris
SOUTHLAKE -- A new pro-drilling movement wants to invite gas drillers back to the city while urging the City Council to ease restrictions.
The group, called Southlake Citizens for Property Rights, had three speakers at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, including Bob Gray, a veteran whose son recently returned from a military tour in Afghanistan. He said mineral owners in Southlake had their liberties taken away by the city's one-sided approach to gas drilling.
"What were they fighting for?" Gray asked the council. "I don't think they were fighting for restrictive zoning. ... I think they were fighting for freedom and liberty because that's what we talk about on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July."
The group started a website,, to counter opponents sites, and
The group faces an uphill battle because XTO Energy announced last month that it will not pursue drilling at the Milner Ranch, the only approved drill site in the city. On Monday, XTO submitted a letter asking the city to return all bonds, road agreements and other documents related to the drilling permit.
"Based on the letter and XTO's previous public comments, the city considers the application withdrawn," city spokeswoman Pilar Schank said.
Anti-drilling movement
The new group wants to strike back against the growing anti-drilling movement that pleaded with the council to reject both of XTO Energy's drilling requests.
The other Southlake site, near Texas 26 and Brumlow Avenue, and a site in Keller, were both rejected, making the Milner site unfeasible, XTO officials have said.
Southlake Taxpayers Against Neighborhood Drilling filed a lawsuit against the city in April and a judge issued a temporary restraining order to prohibit the city from issuing final drilling permits for the Milner site. With the application gone, the suit is moot but the restraining order remains until September.
Rumors have circulated that mineral owners have filed their own legal action to uphold the drilling application.
Gray said last night that he wasn't aware of anything. But the website says they will explore legal alternatives.
Gray said drilling opponents based their argument on fear, opinions and "junk science."
"I would hope that we could settle this without that kind of confrontation," he said. "Without your efforts, I'm afraid we're heading down a very unhappy path."
Dialogue sought
Drilling supporter Steve Oren said the city caused the current situation with its strict ordinance that includes a 1,000-foot setback from houses and schools.
He says the council should remove its January moratorium on new gas applications.
The moratorium expires in July.
"I don't think you're going to get drillers," Oren said. "I just hate to see my mineral rights not being sold as a result of that."
Bill Spivey, speaking for a group of mineral owners, said he supports "reasonable drilling" in Southlake.
"It would also create a large amount of money for the city and the school board and a lot of taxes that the city could collect from the royalties," Spivey said.
Matt Cleaves, who has spoken against gas drilling in the past, said gas drilling has divided the community, and he recommended having a dialogue with all sides to work out the problems.
"I think if we have a dialogue we could change some of the divisiveness that we have in the city," Cleaves said.

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