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Arlington drilling ordeal isn’t over

Lately there has been a lot of a buzz and misunderstanding surrounding a recent oil and gas board’s decision.

The move was not to just allow RMB Drilling’s application to drill on historic Arlington. It was also to force the mineral owners who did not want to drill to now be pooled into that project pending local governing board approvals.

So, there is a lot more to the story. Before RMB Drilling can proceed, they must have city approvals. The preservation commission denied that application for the second time the week before last. Planning and Zoning will meet at 5:15 p.m. this Thursday in the Council Chambers to discuss the topic. So the matter is still pending. The oil and gas board is not the last say! However, the Supreme Court may need to be!

So what does this mean to you, the community?

First, our current local codes state no drilling is allowed in residentially zoned areas, and Arlington and the proposed oil tank farm sits within residential zone. RMB Drilling is asking the planning and preservation commissions to reverse that rule for the second time so they can drill not only in a residential neighborhood, where many children play, but to compound it further, on a historical property listed on Mississippi’s Top 10 Endangered Structures list.

As Historic Natchez Foundation Executive Director Mimi Miller noted, there’s no real good solution. Then, as responsible citizens and elected officials, we should proceed with extreme care.

If there is doubt regarding the outcome, we should err on the side of caution vs. rampaging through a quick fix. This situation sets an extreme precedent regarding any and all other applications presented to the governing boards in the future.

To approve it would create a liability not only to the city, its governing boards but mostly to its taxpaying citizens. This specific ruling can and will affect everyone, not just the current neighborhood involved.

I asked the oil and gas board to issue a continuance for 30 additional days to allow the community to better fully understand what’s at risk here. That request on behalf of the residents was denied. The oil and gas board’s approval only requires that RMB Drilling follow all ordinances outlined by the local governing boards.

It needs to be discussed by legal teams, on both sides and should not be approved because it does not favor the current code. Not to mention, the proposed drilling site is less than three tenths of a mile from a nursing home!

There are too many questions still unanswered for this to move forward so quickly. Specifically, are the residents rights being considered? So far, that answer is no.

So I urge everyone to ask their aldermen, the mayor and the planning board to please be mindful of the impact of these types of applications on its community, taxpayers, residents, neighborhoods, sick etc. and to remind them that the current codes that are in effect today are there to protect its people and their properties.

The liability of this project and similar projects far outweighs the benefits the city (may) get from the oil production from this site.

 

Nona Colombo

Natchez resident