Residents waiting for city's decision on drilling near homes

    A proposed drilling site is marked about forty feet from this property in Newcastle. (KOKH/Connor Hansen)

    People in Newcastle are anxiously waiting for their city council to decide on rules for where oil companies can drill.

    Derrick Lea owns about 40 acres of land in Newcastle.

    In January, he found out Native Oil and Gas applied to build a drill site on the property next to his.

    "It's catastrophic," Lea said. "They're condemning my property. There's roughly going to be seven acres that's lost, that will never be able to be developed in the future."

    Lea is worried about things like earthquakes, oil spills and noise that he says could come along with the drilling.

    One of his main concerns is the oil company putting a road just a few feet away from his property line, where semi-trucks could drive back and forth to a drill site that would be about 40 feet from his property line, and 438 feet from his house.

    He says that's way too close.

    The current Newcastle city ordinance says companies cannot build drill sites closer than 660 feet from a house.

    "The only thing I've been saying from the get go is do the right thing to protect the public, the safety and the people," Lea said. "Follow the laws that you guys created. You wrote them for a reason."

    The problem is that the city wasn't clear on where that distance is measured from, the house or its property lines, or from the drill hole or the edge of the drill site.

    Now, the city is getting ready to vote on clarifying that.

    A proposed chance to the ordinance would measure that 660 feet from the drill hole to the actual house.

    That could make the difference for Derrick Lea's home.

    "They want to make a decision in a second that's going to affect me for the rest of my life out here," Lea said.

    Lea says the company offered him $7,500 to support the proposed site near his home, but he turned them down.

    The City of Newcastle is holding a special meeting Thursday night at 6 pm to vote on changing that ordinance.

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