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April 30, 2014

Oil and gas operations come under city scrutiny

NORMAN — Hydraulic fracturing has sent tremors through the city recently, but not because the city is selling compressed natural gas, the clean alternative.

Rental of a temporary water meter by an oil and gas drilling company has raised red flags at city hall while residents post fears and concerns about water use and “fracking” on social media websites.

In a joint meeting of the city council’s finance and oversight committees tonight, city leaders will discuss bulk water meter sales “and other issues associated with oil and gas drilling.” The 5:30 p.m. meeting is open to the public but may not be open to public comment.

“It’s not a public hearing, it’s a public work session to address apparent gaps in our policy,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said.

Whether public comments are taken at the meeting will be up to committee chair persons Tom Kovach and Lynne Miller, Rosenthal said.

“Staff has gathered a lot of information about other communities, and there’s a lot for (the) council to discuss,” Rosenthal said. “Many other communities are addressing zoning and siting issues, and we do not.”

Rosenthal said some cities address where oil and gas drilling rigs can be located.

Residents concerned about water usage brought the topic to the city’s attention after oil and gas drillers rented a water meter and began using about 17,000 gallons of treated drinking water a day at a site on Franklin Road.

Four miles away from the drilling site at 2351 Goddard Ave., the city of Norman operates a CNG fueling station that is open to the public 24 hours a day. The city-owned fueling station opened in January 2012.

Asked if anyone considered how natural gas is obtained before the city entered into the natural gas business, Rosenthal had no answer.

“You can get natural gas without fracking,” Rosenthal said.

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