If you’re scratching your head wondering how the mayor can go all the way to China with a security officer and spend less than $2,000, here’s how. Someone else was picking up most of the tab. Airfare from DFW Airport to Taiwan for Price and her security officer were paid by the airport so she could take part in a signing ceremony to promote direct air links between DFW Airport and Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport. Airfare between Taiwan and Beijing was picked up by the U.S. Department of Energy, which was sponsoring the energy conference in China she attended. Here’s a breakdown of the costs that will be paid by the city: $915 for the security officer’s hotel costs, plus $611.13 in expenses by both the officer and mayor (taxis, meals, etc.) and $100 each to enroll in an online global registration system to handle international travel paperwork. Price has said the conference helped promote ties between Fort Worth-based oil and gas companies and China. She told the Star-Telegram last week that officials associated with PetroChina, the largest oil and natural gas producer in China, recently visited with Fort Worth-based XTO Energy. But there’s been some private grumbling about the trip from some residents about the mayor leaving the city for 10 days to hob-knob with energy officials.
State Rep. Lon Burnam said Thursday the Fort Worth City Council should look at the more stringent, federal standards for benzene rather than base its findings on the more lenient, Texas Commission on Environemental Quality one-hour sampling standards. Burnam said the city should ask ERG, the consultant who conducted the long-delayed $1 million air quality study, to "reanalyze its dispersion modeling data." In a Dec. 21 letter addressed to Mayor Betsy Price, Burnam said that ERG should also "reevaluate the city set-back requirements." If the city doesn't consider more stringent monitoring of Barnett Shale emissions, Burnam said he will consider legislation requiring TCEQ to do so. The City Council voted down a series of changes in October to its gas drilling ordinance that were based on the findings of the air quality study. TCEQ chief toxicologist Michael Honeycutt said Thursday the state currently has seven monitoring stations in the Barnett Shale and will add nine more in the next 12-18 months. TCEQ has not seen any high benzene levels since two were recorded in Wise County two years ago, Honeycutt said. In a statement, Price said she appreciated "Rep. Burnam sharing his concerns with us; and one thing we can agree on is that health and safety of our citizens will always take top priority." Councilman Jungus Jordan, who read Burnam's letter, said there is no reason to evaulate the air quality study further. Instead, Jordan said the city should continue to push for the latest vapor recovery technology to control Barnett Shale emissions.
Fort Worth is considering changes to its natural gas drilling ordinance.
The proposed modifications would require natural gas operators to obtain 100 percent of waivers within 525 feet of the pad site boundary. Under the proposed changes, companies must have 75 percent of the waivers from property owners before coming to get a City Council waiver. The council also showed support for having notifications of renters out to 1,000 feet from the well site boundary. The hope is it will make renters aware of sites. But city officials said it will be difficult to notify apartment dwellers because they can't contain individual addresses of apartment units. They do believe they will be able to reach renters of homes. There will be a public comment period between Sept. 27 and Oct. 18 that will be followed by a public hearing on Oct. 18. The council is expected to vote on the proposed changes on Oct. 25.
The Fort Worth City Council discussed making changes to its gas drilling ordinance that include recommendations for "best practices" for the industry. City staff said they "may be pushing the envelope" with some of its recommendations that could be subject to legal challenges from the industry. Most of the council members appeared to support the recommendations but Councilman Danny Scarth said the city's air quality study showed the city rules were safe and could discourage the industry to go to other Shale formations across the country. Interim City Manager Tom Higgins said "there were still some holes" in the plan that need to be resolved before it is taken out to the public for comment. He said they will return "soon" for further discussion.
Fort Worth City Councilman Jungus Jordan, who has started reviewing the city's air quality report, said the study by contractor Eastern Research Group has identified five compressor stations that have issues.
"There were five sites out of 388 tested that have some exhaust problems from compressor stations," said Jordan, who stressed that he was still making his way through the report. "We’re pretty confident that the best practices we’ve been preaching can address most, if not all, of the issues."
Best practices include vapor recovery systems, green completions - a process used to recover gas that would otherwise be vented into the air - and low-bleed pneumatic valves that regulate gas flow and pressure.
Jordan, who is also vice chairman of the North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee, which has made recommendations to the state regarding North Texas air quality, said one possibility could be requiring use of electricity to power compressor stations.
The highly anticipated report is scheduled to be released to the public later today.
"It looks like no health alarms are identified at first blush," Jordan said. "But it is a very comprehensive report and I'm still going through it with a fine-tooth comb."
The release of Fort Worth's Air Quality Study, which has been delayed twice, will have to wait one more day to be released to the public. City spokesman Jason Lamers said the city finally received the 300-page report from consultant, Eastern Research Group, on Wednesday afternoon. But city officials will now comb through the report's findings with the plan of releasing it on Thursday. "Staff has begun to read the report, and our goal is to have at least the main body of the report posted online by tomorrow, as promised," said Lamers who cautioned it may not be posted until sometime on Thursday afternoon. The report, which cost the city more than $1 million, is expected to be the most complete study of Barnett Shale emissions to date.
A long-delayed air quality study, which has cost the city more than $1 million, is scheduled to be released today. But city officials weren't saying this morning what time it would be released. The study by contractor Eastern Research Group is intended to settle questions about gas drilling emissions. It was originally scheduled in March and then was scheduled to be released two weeks ago but Eastern Research asked for more time to guarantee they are providing "the highest quality report" to the city.
City Council members were leaning toward getting rid of an extra setback requirement for gas drilling sites with more than one well.
The proposed ordinance would have required multiple well sites to get a special permit that required waivers from everyone affected property within 600 feet of the site boundary. Under the old ordinance, drillers measued the setback from the well bore -- which is a much smaller radius.
It was one of only two points that have not been adopted in the new gas ordinance. In a discussion Tuesday afternoon, council members seemed to favor getting rid of the new requirements, and leaving the old setback rules in place.
A new Gas Drilling Review Board would still hold hearings on well sites that create traffic or pipeline impacts on surrounding neighborhoods.
Dozens of residents were expected for a public hearing.