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Opinion: Lewisville Lake gas rights leasing bad for residents

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2016/2/2 14:40:00 (1744 reads)

By STEVE SOUTHWELL
Publisher
steve@LewisvilleTexan.com


Last week, I wrote about how the federal Bureau of Land Management intends to lease some of the land under Lewisville Lake for natural gas development.

We were fortunate to have a reader bring this to our attention so that we could share it with you while the public protest period is still active. Two prior public comment periods went without anyone from our area weighing in because the notice given by BLM was by all but legal standards insufficient.

The BLM thinks that posting quarterly notices deep within the website of its New Mexico office constitutes informing the public. We think this situation perfectly underscores the need for local media, and why Texas law requires so many government proposals to be posted in local newspapers. Had BLM sent notice to The Lewisville Texan Journal, as a local news source, it would have received ample public comment.

Lewisville Lake is vital water supply for hundreds of thousands of people. Caution is advised for natural gas development, and any other industrial activity in the watershed. Operators must use best practices and regulators must carry a big stick. I wish I could say I trusted the Texas Railroad Commission (the state’s oil and gas regulators) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to wield the regulatory stick when warranted.

Nevertheless, the drilling won’t take place on Corps property. Railroad commission logs from nearby wells show that the horizontal drilling is around 9,000 feet below ground level. The maximum depth of Lewisville Lake is 67 feet. I’m more worried about contamination of underground aquifers which the drilling will pass through than lake contamination. The Corps of Engineers excludes hydraulic fracturing within 3,000 feet of the dam. With the proposed lease being miles from the dam, I’m not worried about any effects on it.

The reason this particular lease ought to be postponed or canceled has more to do with economics.

BLM is narrowing the prospective pool of bidders by leasing only the northeastern side of this arm of the lake, rather than leasing a similar amount of land that would stretch from shore to shore. It is setting up for a sweet deal for a single operator to bid the minimum and walk away with public minerals on the cheap.

Had BLM proposed leasing the land stretching from shore to shore, operators with existing pad sites on both sides of the lake could bid against each other for the opportunity to develop it. Too often, the taxpayers foot the bills for privatized profit and socialized risk.

If we are going to lease the land for drilling, we should at least have a better chance of getting more revenue from it.

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