Arlington has approved an annual fee on gas wells that would pay for specialized firefighter training and equipment.
The City Council unanimously voted for a nearly $2,400 annual fee on each gas well in the city. Revenue from the fees will give the Arlington Fire Department something it lacks -- specialized training and equipment specifically for gas well fires.
But energy companies argue that their employees are already trained in those skills.
"We're disappointed by the council's decision for this unnecessary regulation," XTO Energy said in a statement. "We're confident that our operations in Arlington are already conducted in a safe and reliable manner. While we disagree with the decision, XTO will continue to collaborate with the Arlington Fire Department in ensuring the safety and well-being of the citizens of Arlington."
Wes Jurey, president and CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce said the chamber would have liked to have seen more talk before such action.
“We're certainly not advocating against fees, but we are advocating for collaborative and open discussions as we build and develop public policy and public safety in Arlington," he said.
Many of Arlington's more than 300 gas well sights are located near densely populated areas.
“The drilling industry is unique in its explosive capabilities right next to homes, and it's only going to become more of a problem as these sites age, the wells age, the equipment ages,” resident Kimberly Frankland said.
Frankland, who has followed the drilling industry in Arlington for several years, regularly advocates for increased regulation.
“It has chemicals, hydrocarbons, it has things that can go boom in the night. It's really a unique industry, and you need unique skills to deal with it,” she said.
She said she supports the City Council's decision to impose the new fee.
“To have a fire department that’s ready and knows what to do, has the equipment and the ability to react, that’s going to be a wonderful thing for Arlington," she said.