By Clarence B. Wright
Lately, the landscape of Newcastle has experienced a change in scenery. Over the past several months, the addition of many drilling wells is responsible for that change.
Depending on who you ask, the recent influx of drilling sites in Newcastle has certainly brought about a divide in opinion over the matter.
On one end, there is what the presence of big oil companies can bring to the city -an increase in tax revenue, compensation for mineral rights and other incentives that the city will potentially see.
On the other hand, several residents of Newcastle say their new neighbors have worn out their welcome. Along with the new pumps come more issues to deal with. The presence of these sites have brought about concerns with damaged roads, noise pollution, and traffic.
According to City Council member Mike Fullerton, the drilling usually takes about 30 days to complete. Then, for 14-plus more days, fracking may take place. This is followed by a heavy flow of oil and water for 60 or so days. This creates the need for 40-60 large tanker trucks per day traveling through city limits.
“The oil and waste water will then decline somewhat to about 20-30 trucks per day for about the first year and will slowly decrease for the next 8-10 years, or until the oil plays out,” Fullerton said.
“When I say per day, I mean 24 hours a day – seven days a week,” Fullerton added.
Many residents have expressed their grievances at monthly city council meetings as well as other platforms, such as social media.
Tri-City Citizens for Safe Water and McClain County Residents against BP are pages that have been created on Facebook. Although they were created for two reasons, they have the same goal in common – to hinder the search for oil by these large companies.
Tri-City Citizens for Safe Water was created after learning of the plans of Overflow Energy to drill a disposal well through the aquifer that supplies water to all the residents of Tuttle, Bridge Creek and Newcastle.
According to their statement, leaks from disposal wells are rare but do happen and would be catastrophic to the neighborhood since there is no “plan B” if said aquifer is damaged. They would then be forced to purchase water from Oklahoma City or sell their properties and move. In addition, over 100 trucks per day will be hauling this water from production wells in the area and the resulting traffic on Highway 4 will be a hazard to the 1600 school children only a mile south of the proposed well. This group was formed to contest the proposed well. Recently formed Limited Liability Company, (LLC), Tri-City Citizens For Safe Environment was initiated for the purpose of filing a lawsuit in District Court against Overflow.
The basis of their lawsuit is that the potential well and heavy truck traffic will be a nuisance to those that live there. This lawsuit is the second of a two pronged approach to convince the company to re-locate the well to a more remote location. Their attorney would like to demonstrate to the judge hearing their case that their LLC is made up of real people – all of them opposed to this well.
According to the “McClain County Residents Against BP” page, it was created to serve as a community of anyone who feels like big oil has too much power. The page administrator posted that BP has built a pad for a rig 55 steps from his front door, endangering his family. He feels that big oil has absolutely no compassion for the home owner and do not take children or monetary items into account.
More information on both pages can be found on Facebook.
These are just a few examples of how residents are frustrated by the growth of oil well construction. City council member Joe Covey stated that he felt “bullied” by the oil reps at Monday’s meeting.
Whether one agrees or disagrees, it appears that the drilling is here to stay. The Newcastle city council has already approved the construction of five sites and two more were approved, pending completion of additional agreements set forth by the city.
According to city planner Ryan Conner, Blanchard has 40 – plus active wells that encompass the city, both in and out of city limits.
As of press time the City of Tuttle had not responded to questions asked by the Pacer.
Fullerton said he has no problems enforcing restrictions established by the city.
“City Council has directed city staff to follow the council’s agreements with the oil companies and present ordnances that have been set in place to protect the welfare of the families of Newcastle. Newcastle has a city inspector and newly hired code enforcement officer to investigate and determine infractions that might occur within the city. With any city code infraction the city must have help in locating the issue before action can be used. I ask Newcastle residents if you experience safety issues or feel code infractions have been broken please contact Newcastle City Hall (405) 387-4427 or contact anyone of your Newcastle City Council members,” Fullerton said.