Neighbors disturbed by new drilling rig next door

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Neighbors of the first urban drilling operation in Shreveport say they were surprised to wake up Friday to the sights and sounds of a construction site drilling operation outside their back doors.

"Friday morning, my neighbor called me and said, 'Look out your window,' and I said, 'What the Hell!' He said 'It's an oil well!' Wonderful.  That's the first I heard about it," says Waterview resident Fred Sexton.

His small development looks over what was an open field behind what used to be the Hamel's Amusement Park between 70th Street and Clyde Fant. 

Petrohawk did send out a flyer to some nearby residents late last week.  Sexton says he found his on his front door on Saturday.  By then, work on clearing the site was already well underway. Aside from the short notice, Sexton's also wondering just how close the wellhead will be.

"Well the law says you've got to have a public hearing if you're within 500 feet of a residence, and they haven't had a public hearing." 

Shreveport City Councilman Mike Long says he's looking into that.

"I agree, again that's subject to some really good accurate information, a better more accurate survey to make that determination."

Long says he asked the company to double check.  Petrohawk tells KSLA News 12 that the survey they had to submit to get the drilling permit proves they're in compliance.  To reassure Councilman Long and his constituents, the company sent another survey crew out Tuesday afternoon to confirm the measurements.

Joan Dunlap, Petrohawk's Vice President for Petrohawk's Investor Relations says that crew confirmed the site is well within compliance with state regulation, with well over 700 feet of distance between the future wellhead and the edge the gravel of the nearest residence. 

The permit was issued on Monday, two full days after site work began.  It's not a violation of state law, but it could be an indication of just how rushed the company's move to drill might have been.

"I don't want to get into the details of it," said Dunlap on Monday afternoon, "but suffice it to say it's drilling to satisfy terms of the lease."

Neither Petrohawk or Milton Hamel, the owner of the leased property, will get into the terms of the lease, but Hamel has confirmed that the deadline to drill was at the end of this week.

Now Sexton, a retired judge, is getting a crash course in oil and gas law and his rights as a property owner who as of Tuesday still had not been approached by Petrohawk for any discussion of how his property will included in the unit that the Hamel will belong to.

"I don't know enough right now, except every place I've turned, they've said that these fellas can pretty much do what they want to do."

Petrohawk's petition to the Department of Natural Resources' Office of Conservation will be considered at a meeting March 12 in Baton Rouge.  Fred Sexton says he will be there.