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Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Frequently Asked Questions
History and Current Gas Drilling Environment
Do gas wells currently exist in Flower Mound?

Yes, a portion of Flower Mound lies within a gas deposit known as the Barnett Shale.  The Barnett Shale is a large natural gas reserve that stretches underground across an approximately 17-county area.  It contains an estimated 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and is located approximately 1.5 miles below the surface.  In recent years, advances in drilling technology have made it possible for energy companies to extract large amounts of natural gas from the Barnett Shale.

How many gas wells are currently operating in Flower Mound?

View the online Gas Well Status Report for updated information regarding gas well/drill sites in Flower Mound.

Can the Town of Flower Mound legally prohibit gas well drilling?

Although the issue of the taking of property is one that is the subject of much constitutional debate, a taking of property generally occurs when a government has taken private property for a public use without adequate compensation being paid to the owner. Takings are unconstitutional under both the federal and state constitutions. There are two types of takings: (i) physical occupation (where the government actually occupies someone’s land without any compensation to the owner); or (ii) regulatory taking (where a government regulation denies an owner of the use of his or her land). State and federal courts consistently have held that any local government regulation that prohibited all mining or oil and gas drilling operations inside the local government’s limits was an unconstitutional taking of property since it did not permit the mineral estate owner to either quarry his land or access his minerals. Thus, the right of an owner to access his/her mineral estate cannot be prohibited; however, a local government may regulate setbacks or other siting requirements.

Does the Town profit when drilling takes place on private property?

No. Only the mineral owner and the mineral lessee profit from the operations. The Town does receive ad valorem taxes, which are assessed and collected by the Tarrant County or Denton County Appraisal District.

Town Council, Oil and Gas Board of Appeals, and Oil and Gas Advisory Board

What role does the Town Council have in gas well permitting and regulation?

The Town’s government is subject to all laws imposed by the Town Charter, the United States and Texas Constitutions, the State of Texas, the United States government, and the courts, and how any of those may impact the legal parameters of gas drilling activities. The Town Council may adopt, repeal or amend existing ordinances related to any aspect of oil and gas drilling and production in Flower Mound. The Council also appoints members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, who by ordinance serve as the members of the Oil and Gas Board of Appeals, and members of the Oil and Gas Advisory Board, which will make recommendations to the Town Council about proposed amendments to the Town’s existing oil and gas regulations. The Town Council has no responsibilities in terms of approving or denying applications or appeals for drilling permits in the Town. Town staff is responsible for reviewing all applications for gas well permits, providing comments and feedback to permit applicants regarding technical issues and compliance with Town ordinances relative to oil and gas drilling and production, and administratively approving or denying permits based upon the Town’s Code of Ordinances.

What are the powers and responsibilities of the Oil and Gas Board of Appeals?

The Board of Appeals considers Oil and Gas permit appeals and either approves or denies variance requests. Oil and Gas Board of Appeals decisions are final and not appealable to the Town Council. If an applicant wishes to challenge a decision of the Oil and Gas Board of Appeals relative to an administrative determination of the Town’s Oil and Gas Inspector or the denial of a setback variance, then the only recourse is to file suit in court.

How can I get more information about the Town Council, Oil and Gas Board of Appeals?

For more information about this governing body, visit the Boards and Commissions page.


Permits, Ordinances, and Regulations
Does the Town of Flower Mound have an ordinance regulating gas wells?

Yes. The Town adopted oil and gas well regulations in 2003 and has since adopted amendments in 2005, 2007, and the new ordinance adopted in 2011. The regulations govern a variety of safety, nuisance, and aesthetic issues commonly associated with gas wells including emergency management plans, noise abatement, and setbacks. The complete regulations can be found in the Oil and Gas Drilling Ordinance. It is considered one of the most stringent in north Texas, and was used by several other cities as a template in the creation of other municipal Oil and Gas Well Drilling ordinances.

Does the Town of Flower Mound have an ordinance regulating oil and gas well pipelines?

Yes. The Town adopted oil and gas well pipeline regulations in 2007 and has since adopted amendments in 2010. The complete regulations can be found in the Oil and Gas Pipeline Ordinance.

What is the permitting process for an oil or gas well?

Application and permitting requirements are outlined in the Town’s Oil and Natural Gas Ordinance. The process requires an applicant to submit required fees and plans to the Town for review. All setback requirements, site plan requirements, and emergency response plans are reviewed by multiple Town departments. Applications may be administratively approved if all requirements are met. If an application cannot meet the ordinance requirements, variances to the requirements must by requested before the Oil and Gas Board of Appeals if an applicant wants to proceed.

What is the inspection and monitoring process for gas well operations?

Town staff inspects the pad sites both regularly and on reported issues.  For drilling, fracturing, and other operations that would qualify for an active site, the operations/pad sites are inspected approximately three times per week or more to monitor the operations.  For sites that are in production only, the operations/pad sites are typically inspected once per week.  Town staff also conducts a thorough inspection once per month for each pad site.  The monthly inspection covers items such as having the required signage and correct emergency contact information, checking for any spills, maintenance of the perimeter of the site, noise monitoring, general air quality check for the ongoing production and possible compression-related operation, and compliance with landscaping, fencing/screening requirements. Ongoing ambient air monitoring is also conducted by a third party and the results are posted on the Town's Air Quality  page.  Non-compliance with the Town's regulations results in a penalty, which can include citations or additional enforcement actions depending on the nature of the violation or non-compliance.

How are new gas well applications processed for existing pad sites?

Once a gas well(s) and the associated pad site are permitted, an applicant/operator may submit an application and the required site plans for additional gas wells in the future. Each additional well requires the applicant to submit the required fee, permit application documents, and the application follows the standard review process. If new wells, surface equipment, and/or a pad site expansion do not meet the ordinance requirements and setback distance requirements, the application is denied and the applicant may then amend their plan and/or proceed to the Oil and Gas Board of Appeals for a variance.

Can a permit be administratively issued for a new gas well?  

Yes. The Town’s ordinances provide that if an applicant meets the requirements of the oil and gas ordinances, than the oil and gas inspector shall issue a permit for the drilling of the well or the installation of the facilities for which the permit application was made. If there is an appeal from the applicant, usually because a setback variance is needed, then the Oil and Gas Board of Appeals either grants or denies the requested variances. In addition, section 2.02.3 of the Town Charter authorizes the Town Manager to enforce state law and Town ordinances.

How do the Master Plan, SMARTGrowth, and zoning relate to gas drilling?

A gas well is not a Master Plan, zoning, or SMARTGrowth issue since those all relate to surface development. SMARTGrowth simply is not applicable and has no bearing on gas wells. Note that it is a land development regulation, in the zoning code, and relates to adequate public infrastructure—streets, roadways, sewer, water, traffic issues, etc.—all of which address surface development and whether the Town can support the development with sufficient infrastructure.

How does the Town’s tree ordinance relate to gas well drilling?

The Town’s tree ordinance allows the owner of any property zoned agricultural to remove up to 19 protected trees annually. There is an administrative tree removal permit required, which generally takes one week for review. A tree removal request on agriculturally zoned property does not go to a board and does not require a Town Council vote. The agricultural tree removal permit differs from the other types of tree removal permits discussed in the tree ordinance in several ways. First, this permit does not have to be associated with any type of development. Second, the only criteria necessary for approval are that the property be zoned agricultural and that the trees be protected and not specimen. The tree ordinance does not require the property owner to give any other reasons for requesting the agricultural tree removal permit. Staff verifies that all trees requested for removal are protected trees, not specimen, as referenced in the ordinance. The criteria for tree removal in a platted, subdivision lot, is different. 

What is the difference between specimen trees, protected trees, and non-protected trees? 

Specimen trees are the only ones that require a tree removal permit.  Removal of specimen trees would require going before the Tree Board (ECC) and then to Town Council for approval. The specimen tree removal permit process is the same for any property in Town that is under the tree ordinance.  Protected trees are allowed to be removed from the buildable area on the site once they have an approved building permit.  These do not require going through the tree removal permit process. Non-protected trees include tree species that are not on the Town’s protected tree list (cottonwood, hackberry, eastern red cedar, etc.), or trees that are smaller than six inches in diameter. Once a property is developed and a certificate of occupancy has been obtained, the tree ordinance does not apply and one could potentially remove any tree that lies outside of the floodplain.

Noise, Setback, and Gas Well Facility Requirements
What are the setback requirements for tank batteries, well facilities, and equipment?

An explanation of the setback requirements can be found by reviewing the attached legal memo written by the Town Attorney to the Town Council.

Does the Town staff measure drilling and gas production noice while on location?

Staff will regularly monitor the noise levels being produced from equipment at the gas well sites.  During active periods (such as drilling and fracing), staff will monitor the sites multiple times a week to ensure compliance with the prescribed noise levels.  Once the site has entered into production, noise levels are much more constant and on a monthly basis and as needed due to changes in operations and/or complaints. 

Variances
What are variances?

An applicant may request an appeal or variance to the Town’s Oil and Gas Board of Appeals if the gas well(s) and/or related surface equipment do not comply with the established distance setback requirements, or an appeal may be requested of a decision or determination made by the Town’s oil and gas inspector. The variance or appeal may be requested to reduce the distance requirement to environmentally sensitive areas, residences, public buildings, hospitals, churches, schools, parks, road or right-of-way, and property lines as outlined in the Oil and Gas Drilling and Production regulations.

Gas Wells, Pad Sites, and Other Related Facilities
Does the Town allow salt water injection (disposal) wells?

No. The natural gas well drilling ordinance does not allow salt water injection (disposal) wells to be located within the Town.
 
What is the difference between an individual gas well and a pad site?

A pad site can contain a single gas well and the associated surface equipment or a pad site can contain multiple gas wells. A typical gas well pad site contains more than one gas well, and the size of a pad site depends on the number of gas wells and associated surface equipment.

Will someone be on the drilling site at all times?

During drilling operations there are personnel on-site 24 hours. Completion operations are usually conducted during the day, but personnel may be on-site 24 hours during a short flow-back period. If there are not personnel on-site (Operations or Private Security), then the site/equipment must be secured.

Environmental Testing
Has the Town of Flower Mound requested or conducted air quality testing?

Yes. The Town has been in contact with county, state, and federal leaders regarding the subject of environmental testing. In addition, the Town has commissioned numerous rounds of independent air quality testing. Please visit the Air Quality page for more information and to review all test reports.

How can I acquire information about TCEQ air quality test results in the Barnett Shale?

The Barnett Shale Viewer is a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality interactive mapping tool that displays that agency’s air sampling results throughout the Barnett Shale Geographical Area. Updated monthly by the fifth business day of the month, the viewer illustrates specific locations and the type of air quality monitoring that has been completed. Detailed monitoring reports from the samples are also available through the TCEQ website. Please visit the viewer for additional information.

What is a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)?

VOCs are organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapor pressures under normal conditions to significantly vaporize and enter the earth's atmosphere. Volatile organic compounds are numerous and varied. VOCs are common in nature and in an industrial society, but are often regulated. Examples include formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, and xylene.

Is the Texas Department of State Health Services conducting a “cancer cluster” study in Flower Mound?

Yes. The Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) conducted an analysis in both Flower Mound zip codes (75022 and 75028) in response to requests from several residents. A final copy is available for download on the Air Quality section of the Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Page.

Has the TDSHS previously conducted studies in Flower Mound? What were the conclusions?

Yes. The TDSHS conducted a Texas Cancer Registry study in relation to thyroid cancer in 2008 and a study in relation to breast cancer in 2009. Both studies provided results within expected ranges.

Is the Town involved in soil and water quality testing?

The Town works with the appropriate state agencies to require the soil or water testing when necessary due to a source spill, release, and/or product loss.  Flower Mound’s 2011 ordinance requires that water wells located within 1,500 feet of a gas well to be sampled, both pre- and post-drilling. The ordinance establishes a fine/penalty not to exceed $2,000 per violation per day with each day that a violation exists constituting a separate offense.

Did the TCEQ install a permanent air quality monitoring station in Flower Mound?

Yes. The Town has worked with state officials and field experts to install a permanent air quality monitoring station that provides on-going ambient air analysis. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has installed an autoGC air quality monitor in Flower Mound. This technology allows for 24-hour monitoring via the Internet. Therefore, residents are able to monitor the air quality in Flower Mound.  The monitor is located near the Fire Station 2 at the intersection of Cross Timbers and Shiloh Road.  Results from the monitor can be viewed here.

Is the Town Conducting Additional Air Quality Testing?

Yes. The Town Council has approved funding for a full-time position to monitor air quality and gas well operations in Flower Mound. Funding was also approved for additional equipment for Town Staff to utilize in continual monitoring efforts including a Photoionization Detector (PID) and a Flame Ionization Detector (FID) that will enable staff to conduct air monitoring at operational sites.  In addition, the Town has contracted for independent air quality sampling to be conducted on a monthly basis.  The increased funding required for air quality testing is sourced from the 2011 ordinance’s increase in annual inspection fees assessed to operators of gas wells in the Town’s jurisdiction.  

What does the TCEQ 24/7 permanent air monitoring station test for?

The equipment will test for a variety of compounds including benzene, xylene, and toluene. A description of the monitoring equipment and the compounds monitored by TCEQ is located at:

http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/compliance/monitoring/air/monops/agc/autogc.html.

Where can I review all of the previous air quality test results?

Air testing/monitoring has been conducted by the TCEQ and ambient air evaluations have been conducted by the Town’s contractor; all air testing and monitoring results are posted online at the Air Quality page

Seismic Testing
What is Seismic Surveying?

Seismic Surveying is a testing method used by oil and gas operators to acquire data about the subsurface formation relative to hydrocarbon recovery. The process produces a three-dimensional seismic or geophysical survey that allows natural gas companies to identify potential drilling locations.

What type of equipment is involved?

Seismic surveying involves an energy source and recording equipment. The energy source typically utilized in North Texas consists of vibroseis trucks which send out vibrations/seismic waves into the ground typically over 8-15 second "sweeps" over a designated area. The trucks are prohibited from operating within the Town's right-of-way and on Town property. The seismic wave generated by the trucks is reflected and returns to the surface and is recorded by receivers or geophones. The geophones consist of cables and a small antennae attached to a box; the recording equipment is also required to be placed outside of the right-of-way.

When will seismic testing be conducted in Flower Mound?

Companies conducting seismic testing in Flower Mound are required to submit a schedule to the Town. Any future seismic testing will be noted on the Gas Well Status Report.

Where can seismic testing be conducted?

Seismic surveying operations are not permissible in the public right-of-way and/or on Town of Flower Mound property. In addition, surveying companies should obtain authorization from private property owners to conduct seismic surveying operations on private property. Property owners who authorize their property for use may see location markers or flags indicating potential locations for surveying/recording equipment such as the cables with the antennae and box. Operations maps and schedules are submitted to the Town of Flower Mound by those organizations conducting such operations within the community. The Town of Flower Mound provides this information as a courtesy to our residents and is not responsible for the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained in either the submitted schedule or map. The information contained in these documents should be considered general in nature. Please call the Environmental Services Division at 972.874.6340 for more specific information regarding seismic testing schedules or locations.

Is seismic testing allowed on Flower Mound roads?

No. The Town Council adopted an ordinance on December 7, 2009, to prohibit seismic testing on public property and rights-of-way.

How has staff responded to inquiries regarding seismic testing?

Staff received several calls regarding seismic surveying equipment located in private yards, HOA property, and occasionally within the Town’s rights-of-way.  Staff responded to the concerns by removing equipment from the rights-of-way, speaking to multiple residents, creating an informational webpage for seismic operations, and issuing a citation to the company conducting the operations. Staff also continued to monitor the areas affected to ensure the operator complied with the Town’s seismic surveying requirements.

Who can I contact for more information regarding Seismic Surveying activities within the Town of Flower Mound?

The Town's ordinances require the operator to provide the locations and timeline for the operations; therefore, questions about the operations can be directed to the Town's Environmental Services Division at 972.874.6340. If the unauthorized placement of equipment on private property occurs, please contact Town staff to obtain information about the operations and the company conducting the surveying.

Personal Property Questions
How can I find out if a natural gas well permit has been obtained near my property or additional information about gas well drilling within our Town limits?

If a gas drilling operator is applying to site a new location for the drilling and production of natural gas, they are required to notify the public lving within 1,500 feet of the site.  Upon approval of an oil and gas permit, the operator has 15 days to send out an educational letter explaining typical operations associated with natural gas drilling and production.  Additionally, Town staff maintains a Gas Well Status Report, which is updated as needed to reflect any changes in operation and/or site plans at natural gas drilling and production sites. Residents with any questions or concerns regarding gas drilling may contact the Town’s Environmental Services Division at 972.874.6340.

Can someone else own the minerals underneath my property? How can I tell if I own my minerals?

Yes. It is possible that the mineral ownership may be different than surface ownership. A deed/title search may be necessary for one to determine who actually owns the minerals under a piece of property.

Will drilling affect the foundation of my house?

There is no documented evidence of drilling affecting foundations. Most foundation problems occurring in the North Texas area are a result of ground swell and contraction during alternating periods of wet and dry weather.

Can a gas well be placed on my property without my permission?

As a general rule, an operator would rather have the surface owner’s permission before placing a well site on a particular property and will pay appropriate damage fees to the surface owners. Any other actions would be preceded by legal action involving the operator and the property owner.

What can I expect when a company is going to drill in my area?

A sign will be placed near the proposed well site advising that a permit application has been approved. Additional notification may be required depending on setback distances to residential and/or public buildings. A 300-foot-by-300-foot pad generally will be prepared and a drilling rig will move onto the location. The drilling rig will be on site for approximately 20 to 30 days per gas well actually “drilling” the well and running pipe into the open hole; pad sites may contain multiple gas wells. After the well is drilled, the drilling rig will move off the site. The rig move and drilling is a 24-hour operation and the noisiest part of the operation. Shortly thereafter, well “completion” will begin and a smaller portable rig will move onto the location. After completion operations, surface equipment will be installed along with appropriate fencing and gates. From this point there will be minimal activity on the location. Occasionally a small rig will be brought to the location for remedial work.

Has the impact gas wells have upon property values been considered?

The Town has contracted with Integra Realty Resources DFW, LLP, to analyze the impact of gas well and centralized collection facilities on property values.  The study may be viewed here

Emergency Response

What emergency plans are in place in case of an accident?

An Emergency Response Plan is required as part of the gas well permit application. In the case of gas wells, it has been determined that one plan is not a viable alternative and that if a situation should arise, it should be handled based on the type of incident and the information available.

What criteria are used by the Flower Mound Fire Department to review gas well sites?

The criteria used by the Flower Mound Fire Department to approve submitted plans are embodied in the related National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fire Codes and Standards, Texas Railroad Commission rules relative to fire protection, Town Ordinances, and the International Fire Code.


Traffic Management
Are traffic signals considered to manage truck traffic related to gas wells?

A traffic signal can only be installed when warranted per criteria established in the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Traffic associated with gas well development is speculative in nature and dependent upon variables such as the number of wells in production, the stage of production, etc. Additionally, the safety concerns associated with trucks used for gas well operations are not different than those associated with other heavy trucks (e.g., construction, delivery, moving vans, etc.).

Where Can I Obtain More Information?
How do I obtain additional information regarding gas wells in Flower Mound?

Visit the Oil and Natural Gas Well Drilling page on www.flower-mound.com for additional information.

Who can I call if I have a question or concern?

Questions regarding drilling and operation of gas wells may be directed to the Environmental Services Division at 972.874.6340.

Disclaimer
The Town does not lease nor provide advice about leasing private property for gas exploration and drilling.  Information provided by the Town addresses general issues related to gas drilling and mineral leases and is not intended to provide advice on any specific legal matter or factual situation.  This information is not intended to create and its receipt does not constitute a lawyer-client relationship.  Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel.  Gas companies offering leases for gas exploration and drilling for privately owned minerals, including those with the words “Town of Flower Mound" as part of their name or logo, are not associated with or endorsed by the Town of Flower Mound.



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