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XTO 'Delays' Dallas Drilling Fight

Less than a month after renewing its fight for the right to drill its leases at in southwest Dallas, ExxonMobil Corp.'s XTO Energy told the Dallas City Planning Commission to strike its request for specific use permits from the agenda for its Dec. 20 meeting.

On Nov. 16, XTO filed five specific use permits with the city for potential drill sites on its Hensley Field lease. XTO leased the land in 2008 but in 2010 had its plan to drill up to a dozen wells at the site denied.

"These permit applications are in line with our initial proposal to drill and complete gas wells pursuant to the terms of our lease agreement with the city, which allows for XTO to establish up to three pad sites on certain tracts of land covered by the Hensley Field lease," XTO spokesman Jeff Neu told NGI last week before the permit requests were withdrawn. On Friday Neu said the company had asked the city to "delay" action on its permit filings, but he would not provide any more information about the decision.

Dallas is in the process of re-examining its ordinances pertaining to gas drilling. Earlier in the year the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force submitted a series of recommendations to the City Planning Commission for its consideration. After the recommendations leave the commission, they are to be taken up by Dallas City Council, David Cossum, the city's assistant director of sustainable development and construction, told NGI. Cossum said this could happen some time early next year.

At its Dec. 20 meeting the planning commission is slated to vote on a request by Trinity East Energy LLC to drill in northwest Dallas. It would be the first drilling request to come before the commission since Dallas City Council put drilling in the city on hold two years ago.

A group called Dallas Residents at Risk has opposed XTO's plans to drill at Hensley and also opposes drilling by Trinity East. "...XTO filed a new gas drilling application -- because their previous bid to drill at Hensley Field was denied by the Dallas City Plan[ning] Commission two years ago," the group said on its website.

"Then the city council appointed a special gas drilling task force, whose members met every week for eight months to consider proposals for a new ordinance. They finished their work in February of this year and issued their official recommendations, yet the city council has not even begun drafting a new ordinance. The only rumored exception: city officials may consider simply changing the existing ordinance to allow fracking in floodplains, which would be necessary for gas company Trinity East to move ahead with its plans to drill in floodplain areas along the Trinity River. Neighborhood groups and environmental advocates say that's unacceptable."

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