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Group hopes to push oil and gas wells further from homes

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NORMAN, Okla. -- Change could be on the way for the oil and gas industry in Norman, but several people in town say the city's plans don't reach far enough.

"It started with a discussion over a year ago with fencing and oil/gas wells," said Susan Connors, director of planning and community development in Norman said. "As the discussion has continued, council members have looked at other areas that they wanted considered."

City council members are now looking into amending the oil and gas ordinance in several areas, including stricter fencing, reviewing water quality rules, and insurance.

Those amendments were discussed in a public meeting Tuesday evening.

The Central Oklahoma Clean Water Coalition believes the city is missing a major flaw in the ordinance.

"The current regulations do not address the higher risk, higher impact of land use and industrial uses posed by hydraulic fracturing," Casey Holcomb, with the coalition, said.

Under the current rules, wells can't be drilled within 600 feet of a habitable structure without a waiver. The coalition is now asking that boundary be pushed back to 1,000 feet.

"The current regulations have been on the books for 30 years," said Holcomb. "It's time to modernize."

But despite their efforts, Casey says the city won't listen.

"We've been trying to bring this up for six or eight months," said Holcomb.

"There's interest in the community now of expanding the discussion," said Connors. "I don't believe that will happen at tonight's meeting."

So for the coalition, their mission continues.

"We're not giving up, we're not backing down," said Holcomb. "We're gonna fight the industry until the city hears what we have to say."

City leaders also discussed several bills in the state legislature, like HB 2178, that would limit exactly how much power a city has over oil and gas.

As for the proposed amendments, Tuesday's meeting was for discussion only. City officials say a date for a vote has not yet been determined.

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