Gas companies routinely tout their abilities to drill near homes and schools without major incidents. Never mind the poisonous air quality produced by the wells, the noise, the truck traffic, the earthquakes, the occasional ruined water well, the flaming faucets, the dead animals, and multitudes of other “inconveniences.” Gas companies routinely deny responsibility, and when they really screw up, they settle quietly with homeowners on condition that the homeowners sign a confidentiality agreement that effectively prevents them from discussing the issue or settlement. Which allows gas companies to continue to screw up while claiming they’ve never screwed up.

Well, there was a big screw-up in West Arlington on Saturday, April 11, when a gas well blew out during the fracking stage of the operation, spilling blowback fluids –– which contain a potpourri of poisons –– and forcing more than 100 nearby families to evacuate their homes. The company drilling the well, Vantage Energy, scrambled to get it capped. When the Vantage folks couldn’t get the job done, they called in specialists from Houston, who managed to get things under control by Sunday afternoon, and residents returned to their  homes.

The blowout sent dirty blowback water into nearby storm drains. Even worse, a request under the Freedom of Information Act made by Jane Lynn of the Greater Arlington Community Alliance in March showed that both the city and Vantage knew of well casing problems at the site as early as January but did nothing about them.

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Static is aware of the irony of the blowout occurring just three days before there’s a hearing in the State House on HB40, the bill that would end local control over gas and oil work in cities and municipalities with home rule ordinances (“Home Rule Under Fire,” April 8).

HB40, which will, in all probability, become law, was tweaked last week: Gas and oil ordinances that have been in place for five years or more, like in Fort Worth, will now be allowed to stand –– provided they have not prevented or hindered gas drilling operations –– but newer ordinances will still be subject to new state rules. Denton’s ban on fracking will certainly go, along with Dallas’ 1,500-foot setback rule, despite the fact that if the Dallas ordinance were in place in West Arlington, no evacuations would have been necessary.