By Chris Eversole
Canadian County District Judge Paul Hesse on Monday issued a temporary restraining order that the City of Mustang sought in its lawsuit over plans for two oil and natural gas wells in the northwestern corner of the city.
Hesse scheduled a hearing for Dec. 20 to consider further actions on the lawsuit.
In its suit against Citizen Energy II of Tulsa, the city noted that the company had written a letter to city on Nov. 8 stating it intended to start drilling as soon as a rig was available without complying with the requirements of a conditional use permit.
The permits require the company to erect a 16-foot tall sound barrier around the perimeter of entire three acres of the drilling project, which will employ fracking.
In Monday’s hearing, company attorney Trevor Henson made the following arguments against the city’s request for the restraining order:
- The city had not offered scientific evidence that the sound barrier would be more effective than noise abatement measures that Citizen Energy planned to use to be a “good neighbor.”
- In its public hearing on the wells, they city didn’t give the company an adequate opportunity to present information about its noise abatement alternatives.
- City commissioners had said during the hearing that they wanted to make the drilling of future oil and gas wells in the city so onerous that it would become unprofitable.
City Attorney Jonathan Miller disagreed.
“This is fairly simple from the city’s perspective,” Miller said.
The city has the authority to set conditions for oil and gas drilling in the city – both under its ordinances and through its general policing powers, he said.
The company had notified the city it did not intend to comply with its conditions.
Judge Hesse commented: “It’s not my job to second-guess the city council.”
Miller then suggested that the judge should disregard the company’s request that he consider comments of individual council members.
Company attorney Henson countered that the council members’ comments provide a context for the council’s vote.
“The mayor and the council are against the oil and gas industry,” he said.
Since the vote on the Citizen Energy wells, the council has approved a moratorium on future wells, he noted.
The city was being arbitrary and capricious since it did not require a noise barrier for the six existing wells in the same section of land, Henson said.
Miller countered: “We don’t know if the other wells were plugged in 1920.”
As the hearing wound down, Henson argued that the extensive wall the city wants is unreasonable – out of keeping with best practices.
The judge did not rule on this argument, but instead said he would issue the restraining order.
After the hearing, Miller and company attorneys – who had acknowledged during the hearing that they had engaged in discussions of a settlement – continued talking inside the empty courtroom.