Chris Van Horne, NBCDFW.com
A month after getting a report on the impact of natural gas drilling on air quality, the Fort Worth City Council received an in-depth briefing Tuesday afternoon.
The Fort Worth City Council is considering changes to its ordinances on natural gas drilling to improve air quality.
The council got an in-depth briefing on a report on drilling's impact on air quality that was released last month. Council members heard from experts for nearly three hours.
Several City Council members expressed frustration about the amount of time spent talking about the rules rather than making necessary changes.
"This is like analysis paralysis, and we continue to kick the can," Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks said. "And I've sat at this table for six years, and I just feel like we haven't done a whole lot."
Hicks urged the city attorney to come back with recommendations for a change to the ordinance as soon as possible.
Councilman Jungus Jordan, who sits on the North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee, earlier said the city should change its ordinance to reduce the small amount of air pollution caused by natural gas drilling.
Natural gas drilling wells are not major contributors to the area's air quality, but some council members are willing to take action to reduce the city's share.
"We're going to study until the cows come home," Jordan said. "We've got monitors all over the place, and we've got to make sure we're not adding to the problem. But we know what we can do right now, and that's implement the best practices."
Those include practices such as using alternative power for compressors at gas well sites and using tools to capture emissions better.
Jordan said several other nearby counties have already instituted the rules. Several council members appear to be in favor of changing the city's ordinances to mandate such practices.
"If the city of Fort Worth is legally able to change its ordinance for best practices to protect air quality and protect the public health then, by all means, we need to do it," Councilman Sal Espino said.
But the city is home to just 5 percent of the region's natural gas sites, and highway traffic is the leading cause of air pollution.
However, Jordan said the city can take care of its contribution and do its part.
Gas well setbacks also were debated. While there was no recommendation to alter the distance of 600 feet, there was concern that companies are too easily getting waivers for being within that setback.
"Whether it's 1,000 feet, 600 feet -- whatever we decide to, what we've allowed the gas companies to do is to manipulate the process," Councilman Zim Zimmerman said, referring to companies reducing the number of wells on a site to limit the number of waivers needed to build.
At the conclusion of the workshop, the council directed city staff to look into several items to be addressed next month. The council wants staff to monitor neighborhoods near compressor sites for any effects on public health and to recommend ordinance revisions for notification of residents and rules for well sites in the city.
Jason Lamers with the city said the City Council may also tweak the rules for setback and add more air monitoring.