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Arlington council approves controversial drilling operation expansion

February 07, 2013
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A new natural gas well is on the agenda for Arlington, Texas, after the Arlington City Council approved the project for a second well on what proved to be a controversial site, according to the WFAA.com.

Local residents and opponents of the drilling have raised concerns that the location of the new well is too close to a public building and a row of houses. The council's decision to give the green light to the drilling plans has spurred a wave of protests from citizens. According to local residents, the Rocking Horse drill site, just off South Collins Street, is only 359 feet from a day care center and is 400 feet from a group of residential properties.

WFAA reported that the decision was a touch-and-go situation, but after the council heard both sides of the argument from supporters and opponents of the project, they voted 5-4 in favor of the new natural gas well, thus practically granting well operator Chesapeake Energy a permit to go on with its project. Following the voting, the council expressed its intention to monitor drill works and the entire expansion of the site closely to make sure that any potential safety issues are dealt with immediately.

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Speaking to the council, Chesapeake stated that it intended to be a good neighbor and was committed to providing efficient energy to the area. The company already operates one natural gas well at the site. It is allowed to move on with the drill operations once it has installed a security surveillance camera on the site. Chesapeake said that the actual drilling can start within six months. The company's long-term plans include creating a total of 11 wells and an expansion of the site by another two acres.

Lynda Gearhart, of Chesapeake Energy, told the council that she had spoken to staff at the day care center who assured her that the site was no disturbance to the daily routine at the center. Despite her claims, a number of local residents voiced their concerns over the expansion. Tammie Carson, who lives near the site, is among the most avid opponents to the drilling permit. She called the drilling process near homes "unconscionable" and noted that she was worried there might be health implications for children and adults living nearby. This could affect the air and the water of the area, it could pollute the areas where children play and might cause physical problems, she said.

Arlington City Council Member Robert Rivera, who voted against the expansion, is concerned by the fact that the site is just across from Arlington Municipal Airport. The airport is the gateway to the city and there are many people who arrive in Arlington and the first thing they will see is the drilling site, he explained. The city is developing and the site could be used in the future for a high-quality commercial project instead, he added.

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