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Energy & Environment

Environmental Groups Worry if Houston Can Limit Oil Drilling Near Drinking Water Source

The groups are meeting with people concerned about oil drilling near the shores of Lake Houston.


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Sharon Mohr lives near Lake Houston
Dave Fehling
Sharon Mohr lives near Lake Houston

"We're not trying to shut oil & gas development down," said Zac Hildebrand, a scientist at the University of Texas Arlington. He's done extensive testing and research into oil & gas drilling's impact on the environment.

Hildebrand was on a speaker phone talking to a handful of people gathered at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in the Museum District. They came here to learn about oil drilling after some news that caught some by surprise.

The state has issued a permit for a Houston company to drill an oil well 37-hundred feet from the northeast shore of Lake Houston.

"And I said: What? I knew there were some old wells out there but I didn't realize was anything active. We've got tons of old wells in the Humble-Kingwood-Atascocita area. So I was immediately concerned," said Sharon Mohr who lives near the lake.

As we reported Monday, the City of Houston issues its own, restrictive permits for drilling near the lake — a major source of the city's drinking water — and is currently reviewing the application for the proposed well.

But the Texas legislature last year passed an industry-backed state law that limits what cities can do to regulate oil & gas drilling.

"What the law says is cities cannot pass limits on oil and gas operations that threaten commercial activity....they have to be commercially reasonable restrictions," said Melanie Scruggs with Texas Campaign for the Environment.

Residents and environmentalists say a big concern is that if the proposed well is successful, it'll start a rush by other drillers to look for oil near the shores of Lake Houston.