Cleburne resident Diana Maldonado said she has no problem with gas exploration in the county and city. She does, however have reservations regarding a proposed well near Gerard Elementary and Cleburne Middle School.

“I’m not disputing gas wells going up, just not right there,” Maldonado said. “What if they had to evacuate that area? That’s something I don’t want to have to think about for the next 30 years.”

She and residents from the Winchester, where she lives, and West Hill Terrace neighborhoods met with RedSky Land, an agent for Chesapeake Energy, Dec. 18, Maldonado said. They talked about oil and gas leasing on a 320-acre tract of land that includes both neighborhoods, she said. The agent told those present that Chesapeake expects to install eight wells on the land with one to be located at the corner of Country Club Drive and Nolan River Road, in southwestern Cleburne.

“It is very important that everyone realize that this site is directly catty-corner from Gerard Elementary and the middle school,” Maldonado said. “Neighborhood residents have no say-so where Chesapeake puts the wells nor if we even want them to drill because it was very clear from their agents that they are going to drill and soon.”

Current city ordinances prevent drilling within 400 feet of a building, including a school.

“They’d have to be [more than 400 feet away]” Cleburne City Manager Chester Nolen said. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t get a permit.

Maldonado said that, although she has no children attending either school, she feels with the amount of open field in the area it is poor judgment to place a well that close to a school.

“When RedSky was confronted with this issue, their response was we should be more concerned about the well located next to Johns Manville,” Maldonado said. “I don’t see the comparison, and children are not innocently sitting in classrooms next to Johns Manville.”

Johns Manville is a company that manufactures insulation and commercial roofing materials. It has a plant off of North Main Street.

A Chesapeake representative said Wednesday the area near the school is under negotiation for gas-well drilling but is not a done deal.

“Chesapeake really prides itself on being a good corporate citizen in tune with the neighborhood and local concerns,” said Julie Wilson, Chesapeake’s director of corporate development for the Barnett Shale, which lies under much of Johnson and Tarrant counties. “We search out the optimum locations for our royalty owners but also consider the surrounding community and neighbors.”

Wilson said safety concerns remain very important to Chesapeake. She said the bulk of such problems arise while the well is being constructed and drilled and that the biggest risks are to the workers.

“The [Texas Railroad Commission] has reported no fatalities or injuries to residents from a gas-well explosion anywhere in Texas,” Wilson said.

A check of commission records confirms two deaths between 2001 and 2006 involving well blowout or control problems. Both casualties involved workers.

Nonetheless, Wilson said she understands peoples’ concerns.

“We live and work in the community too and understand there’s a lot of unknowns regarding exploration and drilling,” Wilson said. “And we want to help people understand and become educated and alleviate any concerns or misconceptions they have.”

Wilson stressed that Chesapeake continues to follow all safety rules and ordinances of cities, counties, the state and the railroad commission.

All the same, Maldonado urged residents to protest any proposed well site so close to the two schools and said she hopes city council members prevent such placement through zoning restrictions.

“Our city has regulations concerning drilling activities within city limits, which were crafted with safety as the primary concern,” Mayor Ted Reynolds said. “The drilling companies’ safety records are very good, and the chance of accident is slight.”

The council is considering an update of the current ordinance, which will increase setbacks from 400 to 600 feet among other things, to better address safety needs while still encouraging economic development and landowners’ rights to profit from their land, Reynolds said.

Reynolds said, while he didn’t know all the specifics regarding the proposed wells Maldonado spoke of, that he and the council are always happy to hear such concerns and that they “help give us direction.”

Maldonado also expressed concern regarding the use of Country Club Road, which she said the RedSky agent told her would be the likely route used by equipment and supply trucks.

Reynolds said Country Club Road is a state highway, and as such is maintained by the state, not the city. Reynolds did say the council discourages gas-well trucks from using city streets, however.

Matt Smith can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2339, or

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