Five things to watch at Monday’s city council meetings

gavel[1]By Colin Killian, Communications/Marketing Specialist

The College Station City Council gathers Monday at city hall for its workshop (5:30 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings. Here are five items to watch:  

  1. Aggieland Humane Society: The council will hear a workshop report about the Aggieland Humane Society. The council will consider the city’s annual payment of $205,000 in sheltering fees as part of the consent agenda.
  2. Veterans Memorial Funding: The council will consider the budget for the Memorial for all Veterans of the Brazos Valley, along with a $15,000 funding agreement for FY15.
  3. BVGCD Board Appointment: The council will consider appointing Bill Harris to the Brazos Valley Groundwater Conservation District, subject to approval by the Brazos Count Commissioners Court.
  4. Street Rehabilitation Projects: The council will consider contracts with Binkley & Barfield for professional services related to the Graham Road ($144,820) and Munson Avenue ($377,470) rehabilitation projects.
  5. Oil & Gas Permit: After a public hearing, the council will consider approving an oil and gas operations permit to Halcon Operating Company for a second well on a 71-acre tract north of the Holleman Drive South-Cain Road intersection. The council approved the first well on Oct. 9.

The meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Ch. 19, or online. Previous council meetings are archived on the website. A detailed live blog from the meetings will be posted on this site and also can be accessed through the city’s Facebook page.

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3 thoughts on “Five things to watch at Monday’s city council meetings

  1. The council’s vote on the fracking permit last week was essentially an admission that the law in place is not up to the new challenges created by oil and gas development today. The council noted that a new statute was being developed. A moratorium should be placed on further permits until that statute is in place.

    The new statute should ensure that absolutely the best possible well design and management should be required of wells withing the city limits. I’m sure there are good precedents out there from other cities that have responded to these new challenges, but here are a few things that I think the statute should include.

    – Air quality monitoring: Before development the air quality should be monitored for 6 months prior to development (at the expense of the developer but under the supervision of the city or a third party) and then continued for at least 3-5 years after development. A strict policy ensuring that local air quality is not diminished should be enforced. Methane emissions should not be tolerated as these are potent greenhouse gases.

    – Water quality: As with air quality, monitoring of the ground water should be carried out prior to development and regularly tested after development for the life of the well.

    – Water quantity: When a fracking operation takes water out of our aquifer it affects all of us, in College Station, Bryan, and the surrounding communities, making the day when we have to drill our next well nearer. Water prices are inadequate to create the right conservation incentives, and I am confident that that is also true for the price being paid by this developer. If they want to drill in our city limits, an appropriate water use fee should be imposed, regardless of what organization sells them the water.

    – Traffic and roads: As I understand it the current statute requires that the developer will be responsible for damages. That is not sufficient. The burden of proof should not be on the city to prove that the production led to road problems. Large trucks lead to the deterioration of roads and the cost of that can be estimated. Hence, a fee per vehicle-ton should be paid by the developer, ensuring that adequate funds exist for road repairs. Further, a traffic impact assessment should be carried out and, if undue problems are to be caused, a mitigation plan should be put into place. (e.g., hours that vehicles will operate, speeds, etc.) Further, every time a vehicle with fracking liquids or waste water is on our roads, that creates a risk of a spill. Attention must also be put on this problem.

    While there will be tax revenue for the city associated with this development, the council should be aware that there is very strong economic evidence that fracking can lead to a reduction in housing values (Muehlenbachs, et al., 2014, So there are potential offsetting impacts in terms of declining property values, and significant reductions in the quality of life.

  2. The city of Denton, Texas has placed a moratorium on drilling inside its city limits. This moratorium was placed after citizens became alarmed by a disregard for their safety, including pumping of contaminated well water directly into a creek. Wells in Texas are regulated by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ.)

    The first obligation of a City Council is to protect the health and safety of the citizens of their community, which is why the Denton City Council voted 7-0 in favor of the moratorium. They had lost faith in the RRC and the TECQ. There are few restrictions on conflicts of interest for those who sit on these commission and they are populated by people from the oil and gas industry. In fact the chairman of the RRC, wrote a four page letter to the City Council of Denton encouraging them to forgo the ban, basically because oil and gas are important to the economy of Texas. Luckily for the citizens of Denton, their council bravely stood up to this inappropriate overreach from an Austin bureaucrat into the safety of their community.

    In response Councilman Kevin Roden wrote :
    “Where have you been? The Denton community has been struggling with very serious issues directly resulting from policies and regulations your Commission is charged with enforcing. Where were you when we struggled, unsuccessfully, to find a way to prevent a drilling operator from fracking 200 feet from the back porch of several houses in an established neighborhood? When our community has experienced blowouts, spills, and significant air quality concerns stemming from the very industry you are supposed to be regulating, where have you been?

    “You’ve been silent, absent, seemingly unconcerned, and clearly regulatorily ineffective.”

    And of course the TECQ earned its national reputation for a lack of oversight with the West fertilizer plant explosion. It is clear that the citizens of College Station cannot depend on these state commissions to protect our safety. We are dependent on our City Council to do that. Luckily the brave City Council of Denton has already set the precedent. As Texans, we all know the dangers associated with oil and gas wells. Your citizens are looking to you for protection.

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