Hundreds Pack Public Meeting on Natural Gas Drilling

Some accuse industry of trying to monopolize Fort Worth meeting

Supporters of tougher rules on natural gas drilling in Fort Worth accused industry representatives of trying to monopolize a public meeting Thursday night.

“I would say they tried to pack the chamber,” said former Councilwoman Cathy Hirt. “That would be my assessment, that they tried to pack the room so ordinary citizens simply did not have a place to sit down.”

Hundreds of industry supporters crowded into the room, many wearing green stickers indicating support of natural gas drilling.

A spokeswoman for Chesapeake Energy said the company encouraged employees and supporters to attend, but denied trying to take over the meeting.

“There are two sides to every story,” said Jerri Robbins, Chesapeake manager of public relations. “The people who aren’t as friendly to the gas industry show up all the time, and I think those on the other side are getting a little frustrated, and they’re going to start showing up too.”

The meeting was set to start at 7 p.m. at the Botanic Gardens, but began 45 minutes late.

Police and the fire marshal had to order many people to leave because of the safety hazard.

The Fort Worth City Council is considering tougher rules on natural gas drilling, including new limits on everything from noise to nighttime drilling.

The council is set to vote on the revisions next month.

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