Burleson officials concerned about security at gas well sites

Jan. 4--BURLESON -- Officials are concerned that some energy companies are not fully complying with security requirements at natural gas well sites such as closing gates and installing monitored alarm systems.

Mayor Ken Shetter said last week that he is unhappy that gates are sometimes left open at well sites, which is not permitted in an ordinance that was adopted last February.

"Things aren't going as well as we hoped," Shetter said.

On Monday, the council will receive a report outlining the concerns and also consider changes to the gas drilling ordinance, including doing away with the three-day grace period when companies are notified to close gates.

Assistant City Manager David Wynne said that if the council adopts the revised ordinance, energy companies would be cited immediately if the city finds an open gate.

The fine is up to $2,000 per violation per day, he said.

"These are housekeeping measures. When we leave the house, we close and lock the door; we want gas companies to do the same," he said.

Wynne said another problem is that not all well sites have access to electricity for the required security system. Many of the sites are off roadways, and operators must acquire easements to access power lines. Compounding the problem is that power providers are backlogged because workers are still in Galveston repairing damage from Hurricane Ike, Wynne said.

Nevertheless, companies can use alternatives, such as generators or solar panels, he said.

Councilman Dan McClendon said he worries about someone getting injured at an unsecured site.

"I think the root of the problem is that the gas companies don't think of these things [well sites] as being all that dangerous. All I know is that I see pressure gauges reading thousands of pounds per square inch," he said.