Gas well in limbo after permit withdrawn

Chesapeake Energy has withdrawn its request for the City Council to review a high-impact gas well permit for a proposed well site on campus north of Amon Carter Stadium, a university official said.

Tracy Syler-Jones, associate vice chancellor for marketing and communication, said the university was contacted Friday about the permit withdrawal.

“Their decision to withdraw the permit was based on recent City Hall activities related to the denial of the other gas permit,” Syler-Jones said in reference to an Oct. 7 vote in which the City Council unanimously rejected Chesapeake’s request for a high-impact permit for a site along Eighth Avenue near Elizabeth Boulevard.

Jerri Robbins, Chesapeake public relations manager, said the City Council’s ruling did affect Chesapeake’s decision to withdraw the permit request.

Holding the permit request will allow Chesapeake more time meet with the university to work out issues, such as the well location and off-lease drilling, Robbins said. If the university allowed off-lease drilling, Chesapeake would be able to use the pad site to access minerals in some residents’ property, Robbins said.

“By tabling this permit, it allows us more time so that the campus and the neighbors and Chesapeake can work together and try to find a development plan that works for everyone,” Robbins said.

In a letter to neighbors dated Oct. 3, the university officials wrote they were disappointed in Chesapeake’s decision to hold meetings with neighborhood associations without submitting an acceptable plan of action to the university.

“In addition, Chesapeake has moved forward with seeking a high-impact drilling permit knowing that specific requests by TCU for pooling plans and other details had not been agreed upon,” vice chancellor for finance and administration Brian Gutierrez wrote in the letter.

Robbins said even though the university has not approved any of the development plans, Chesapeake has submitted several versions to the university. She said a timetable to resubmit the request has not been set.

“We don’t expect to be drilling in 2009,” she said.

Robbins said she could not say at this time whether the permit application would be modified after meeting with the university and neighbors.

According to a city ordinance, companies that wish to drill a well within 600 feet of a protected class – which in the city of Fort Worth is a residence, religious institution, public building, hospital building, school or public park – must apply for a high-impact gas well permit. This permit can be obtained by either written consent from all property owners in the affected drilling area, or it may be granted by the City Council after notice and public hearings.

Chesapeake has not notified the university concerning future plans for the high-impact permit, Syler-Jones said.

For now, the university and the proposed site remain in limbo.

“No work can be undertaken on that site until Chesapeake obtains the permit,” Syler-Jones said.

Joel Burns, city councilman for District nine, and Tom Edwards, city senior gas well inspector, did not immediately return calls requesting comment.