Newcastle updates rules for drill sites near homes

    Newcastle City Council holds a special meeting Thursday night. (KOKH/Connor Hansen)

    The city council in Newcastle voted Thursday to update its rules on how close drilling sites can be to homes.

    The updated ordinance says the actual drilling bore hole has to be 660 feet from any house or other protected structure.

    The bore hole must be 300 feet from someone's property lines.

    The boundary of the drill site must be 460 feet from a protected use like a house.

    “We care for doing what’s best for the city and everything we end up doing better be in the overall best interest of the city," said Mayor Gene Reid during the meeting.

    Residents are concerned with the noise, damage to roads and potential environmental impacts from the drilling.

    Last year, when the city received a hand-full of new applications to build drill sites, it changed its ordinance, saying they had to be 660 feet from anyone's home.

    But it didn't specify if that was from a house or its property line, or from the drill hole or the edge of the drill site.

    The current state statute says cities can't create any rules that are unreasonable to companies trying to drill.

    There's also a proposed bill in the state house that could further limit the city's power.

    "If the city impedes or even imposes a loss of profit, the city could be held liable," Mayor Reid said.

    This change in rules might be enough to allow new drill sites near properties like Derrick Lea's.

    “They’re bending the rules and making rules as they go to allow this drilling, because as they stated, they’ve increased their numbers this year and they’re getting I think fifteen to twenty thousand per hole," Lea said.

    The Newcastle planning commission will be hearing more drilling applications on Monday.

    House bill 2150 has passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

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