The denizens of tony Southlake successfully defeated the fracking juggernaut, turning industry leaders like Chesapeake back at the city limit sign. Or maybe it was the low natural gas prices that did it. Tough to say, really.
But what can they do when a derrick goes up a stone's throw across those same city limits ... in Colleyville? And on property owned by none other than Trinity Broadcasting Network, home to Pat Robertson and Jan Crouch's eyelashes? Not much, it turns out, because Titan Operating began fracking the site yesterday, near the intersection of Pleasant Run and John McCain. It'll be the first hydraulically fractured well so far in Colleyville, and it's within earshot of the densely developed Southlake line.
"[My wife] said she couldn't believe how loud it was when she was walking our dogs," said Kevin Townson of Southlake, who lives in the upscale Timarron development, roughly 2,000 feet from the site. "I have a 12-year-old girl. I have concerns about safety. I don't know a lot about benzene. There's so much information flying around this whole process."
Townson says he became a fixture before the Colleyville City Council, giving voice to his fears as a nearby homeowner. But, he notes, he hails from Southlake. He doesn't vote in Colleyville. "It's like, wait, I'm a business owner in Colleyville. I'm a property owner in Colleyville. They basically told me, 'You don't matter because you live in Southlake.'"
So he reached out to TBN, hoping to appeal to their Christian sense of neighborliness. Too many question marks remain, he thought. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' own peer-reviewed journal said the potential health effects needed to be studied. Surely the folks at TBN, of all people, would understand.
"Unfortunately it was all about the money," Townson said. "Titan offered them a lot of money, and they took it. They're based out of California. What do they care?"
Unfair Park reached out to TBN, who referred all questions to legal counsel. "Titan has definitely demonstrated a safety record to us that everything is above board and meets all state and federal regulations," said TBN spokesman John Casoria, who is apparently Jan's nephew. "We believe they'll do that in an environmentally effective and sound way, where there will be no significant risk of any problems."
The Colleyville City Council was informed just a few weeks ago that Titan would not be in compliance with municipal regs. Little more than a week later, Titan told city staff that they'd begin fracking Tuesday. Townson doesn't buy it.
"I don't think Titan's complying with the ordinances," he said. "I think the city has been very lackadaisical about that whole thing.
"I can't believe they're putting an industrial site right in the middle of a residential area."
A spokesperson for the city of Colleyville said Titan had obtained waivers allowing them to proceed despite the fact that a few residents lived within 1,000 feet of the site. It turned out they wouldn't flare gas at the site, use city water or operate outside of daytime hours. "They started fracking yesterday and were compliant throughout," spokesperson Mona Gandy told us this morning. "We had an inspector out measuring noise levels and emissions. We'll be doing the same thing again today."
Townson isn't satisfied and, just like his fellow Southlake residents when drillers were poised to sink wells in the unblemished hide of a suburb named by Forbes as one of the wealthiest in America, he's taking matters into his own hands. "The noise and trucks are a nuisance, but no one knows what the long-term effects of this are going to be," he said. "We're going to hire an independent lab and have some canisters purchased and do air quality testing on people's property who've joined with us."
And that's about all he can do. After all, this isn't Southlake.