King’s Legislative Solutions for the Barnett Shale

April 3, 2009

State Representative Phil King

The Barnet Shale is both a blessing and a curse to Parker and Wise counties. The economics benefits have been wonderful and our state and nation certainly need the domestic natural gas (which is now being imported more and more from overseas). On the other hand, this is the first time Texas has had a major gas play in such a populated, growing community like our counties. The result has been serious, costly road damage caused by truck traffic, disruption caused by well-head sites, water conservation issues, and eminent domain cases from new gas pipelines.

I have worked with numerous constituents and the gas industry to mediate many of the concerns, but it has become more evident to me that legislative action is necessary. Therefore, I have filed several bills in an effort to address some of the negative consequences that result from local natural gas production.

The first of these is HB 3402, which would prohibit oil and gas companies from drilling wells within 600 feet of buildings and homes in the Barnett Shale. Wells in unincorporated areas are often drilled in close proximity to homes, causing both aesthetic and noise disruption, as well as safety issues. Just this week, this bill went before the House Committee on Energy Resources for consideration. Several local citizens and County Judge Mark Riley traveled to Austin to testify on their personal experiences.

Another bill, HB 3403, would prohibit the operation of large truck traffic through platted subdivisions. For three years, the residents of the Chisholm Heights subdivision in East Parker County have been inundated with heavy truck traffic from drilling operations on a neighboring property. Parker County Judge Mark Riley, other county officials, and I have been negotiating with the residents, industry, and other parties in order to resolve the situation. Just this month we were finally able to reach agreement. However, it is important to prevent this same situation from occurring in the future when other ingress options are available to drilling companies.

I am also part of a new ad hoc group of Barnett Shale legislators and we are working in partnership to create additional protections for landowners and area residents. We hope to have a comprehensive package of legislation soon to further address issues such as pipeline safety and property rights. Of course, any of the bills filed must be passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate and then signed by the Governor to become law. Opposition is intense but our coalition is working hard to secure passage.