ROD GUAJARDO | The Natchez Democrat — State Street resident Leona Adams stands by signs she put in front of her house that request people driving by call their aldermen to protest RMB Exploration’s attempt to drill an oil well on historic Arlington property.

Oil battle waging: Natchez Planning Commission to hear RMB’s application

Published 12:01am Thursday, January 24, 2013

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Planning Commission is scheduled to hear RMB Exploration’s application to drill an oil well on Arlington property at the commission’s meeting today, and the issue seems far from over.

The Mississippi State Oil and Gas Board approved the application of Mike Biglane of RMB Exploration to drill the well last week. But board attorney Howard Leach said all of the board’s orders specifically outline that applicants must obtain any other permits from any other applicable entities, such as the city.

“What the board decided (last week) is that (Biglane) has complied with our regulatory requirements,” Leach said. “That’s not to say he does not need to get some other permit from someone else.”

The board, however, did not condition its approval on that, Leach said.

“Not getting approval from the city would not void out his permit from the board because he has complied with our requirements, but it might prevent him from operating,” Leach said.

The oil operation, which was denied for the second time by the preservation commission on Jan. 9, would be in the same location denied by both commissions and the Natchez Board of Aldermen last year. However, Biglane moved a portion of the project — the proposed oil tank farm — to a parcel of land accessed from the end of Ouachita Street.

Biglane’s operation needs a certificate of appropriateness from the preservation commission because it is in a historic district, and it also needs rezoning approval from the planning commission because the operation would be in a residential district.

The question, Leach said, is whether the oil and gas board takes the position that the city’s ordinances infringe upon the jurisdiction of the oil and gas board.

The Arlington issue is a “very complicated legal issue,” Leach said.

“I can’t give you an off the top of my head answer,” he said. “I can’t categorically say that we won’t get into a fight with the city. We have our rules and our regulations and our statutes that we are charged by the legislature to administer.”

“The question is again whether or not the city is in any way infringing on a state regulatory agency by having these rules in place,” Leach said.

City Attorney Hyde Carby declined to comment on the situation. Carby did say the city still contends that its code requires approval of the operation before a permit can be issued.

Mayor Butch Brown said he is confident that the planning commission will do its job as it sees fit.

“In my opinion, I suspect they’ll vote to go along with the preservation commission and reject it,” Brown said.

Brown agreed that the dilemma of the city’s code possibly conflicting with oil and gas board regulations and vice versa will have to be resolved.

Brown said the city has tried to use the DRAYCO oil operation on Cemetery Road as a “prototype” or “best practice” with oil wells in potentially sensitive areas. DRAYCO opted to directionally drill in an effort to not disturb the nearby city and national cemeteries.

Biglane has said that directionally drilling would increase his cost at Arlington form $130,000 to $300,000.

Biglane said Wednesday he has not considered what he will do if his application is denied by the planning commission today.

Biglane has other leases on historic property in the city, but he said he does not plan to drill at Monmouth, Dunleith or other historic places.

Planning Commission Chairman Charles Harris said he did not want to comment on Biglane’s application before the meeting.

“It’s going to come up, and there’s going to be plenty discussion,” Harris said.

St. Charles Avenue resident Leona Adams and her daughter Nona Colombo said they will be at the planning commission’s meeting to oppose the oil operation. Adams and Colombo have been some of the more vocal residents against the oil operation.

Adams placed signs outside her house urging people to call their aldermen to ensure city officials know where the residents stand.

“We’re hoping (the city) will realize that there are more people opposed to it that just the few of us,” she said.

Adams said she has had a lot of response since placing the signs in her yard.

“People have been calling me and telling me they are opposed to it, and people have also been driving by and giving thumbs up when I’m outside,” she said.

Ward 4 Alderman Tony Fields said he stands with Adams and the other residents in the area that are against the oil operation. Fields said he hopes the planning commission denies Biglane’s application.

“A compromise can be met; I don’t think we’re there yet,” Fields said. “I think (Biglane) can come up with some type of directional drilling where it won’t affect the neighbors. That may be a solution.”

Fields said he understands that mineral rights owners have a right to extract their minerals.

“But at the same time, it shouldn’t come at the expense of disturbing others.”

Approximately 70-80 people have signed a petition against the operation, Adams said. She said she hopes those people come to the planning commission meeting today.

“Now is the time to say you’re against it,” she said. “This particular oil well is important because it’s going to set precedence. Come to the council chambers with us and show that you’re against it.”

The planning commission will meet at 5:15 p.m. in the Natchez City Council Chambers.

  • Anonymous

    The Planning Commission needs to enforce its Codes. NO DRILLING! Preservation did their job. (And to refer to them as hysterical shows ignorance), the members of that board are very dignified, educated and serious about preserving the very essence of what makes Natchez, Natchez! IF RMB wants to drill on a historic property and in a residential neighborhood, then it needs to be decided in court. For a developer to overturn City “LAWS” IS something for a higher court to decide. If you take time to read the current City Code, its clear. NO DRILLING! Glad to see the OGB officially state they are not the final say!

  • Kenny Powers

    It shows ignorance to deny mineral owners the right to their property.
    You would feel differently if you were a mineral owner and not just a neighbor that did not fall into the unit.

  • Anonymous

    Funny as said owner hasn’t paid property taxes on Arlington. The other neighbors surrounding Arlington are clearly against this as stated in previous Natchez Democrat articles.

  • Kenny Powers

    Mineral owners are not necessarily the same as surface owners in MS, so its irrelevant if the surface owner paid taxes.

  • Anonymous

    Ignorance is when you think you are above the law and thats just what Mr. Vauhn’s (the mineral owner) actions indicate. As the owner of Arlington (Mr. Vaughn) has well over $43,000 in fines due the City that he has not paid for a court ordered fine stemming from demoltion by neglect. To change the current CODES (which are laws) and grant him mineral extraction is absurd especially when the monies potentially received from this project are not specifically earmarked to repay his debt. He is in direct violation of the courts order for not paying those fines so to bend for his personal gain is a slap to the face of justice! As for Ms. Adams signs, they are on her property and are protected by her First Amendment rights(free speech). And lastly, mineral owners shouldnt have the right to compromise anothers home value for thier own personal gain! This whole proposal to rezone, change laws, make concessions for an individual who show no respect for the courts is just wrong! The City Codes/laws are written for a reason…to be enforced!

  • Anonymous

    Well put, and right on point. I agree. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Another home run! Thanks for sharing such WISE insight.

  • Anonymous

    You’re right Kenny I forgot about that. Though I do find it strange that a surface owner isn’t necessarily a mineral owner as said minerals would be in or on the property owned by surface owners. But that’s MS law.

  • Kenny Powers

    Mr Vaughn is not the only mineral owner. His neglect of the surface he owns has already decreased surrounding neighbors property value, has it not?

  • khakirat

    Well here we are again, the histerical people wanting to block progress of Adams county and hurting the working man which as always been the Natchez Way!! You people that are fussing that only are neighbors should wise up that after the wells are completed the grounds will be cared for on a regular basis and look better than your yards-now whats wrong with that huh’??!! Arlington property will have a better appearance and all is better!! The mineral owners have rights too and you people need to understand this!! Geterdone Mike!!!

  • Kenny Powers

    And as far as directional drilling is concerned, they still have to drill from someone’s surface. It’s not like directional drilling somehow changes that. The mineral owners are still the same.

  • Anonymous

    Sure! Mike Biglane says he won’t drill on Monmouth or Dunleith, but if he gets approval here there will be no holds barred.

  • Anonymous

    You think those signs are hideous!? Wait until you see the mess the oil rigs make!

  • Kenny Powers

    Do you own a car?

  • Anonymous

    If you havent noticed…most cars are becoming less oil dependent and more energy conscious (alternataive fuels)…… Additionally, signs are not as hideous in comparison to oil rigs, and oil tankers/drilling operations… Signs are not noisy, they can be easily removed without major enviornmental hazzards, and may already be a recycled item. Additionally signs dont devalue anothers possession like an oil rig and tank will…. (How about letting RMB drill on your lot since you feel its ok.)

  • Anonymous

    It can only potentially decrease property values if its sold and/or turned into some sort of toxic waste area like the proposed drilling operation! As it stands currently, its not a plus or minus to neighboring values. Once its sold, then its lumped into comporables but the overall price tag for that place still would be a hefty boost to nearby home values (even if leveled!)

  • Anonymous

    If my car were dependent on this well being drilled, we’re all in a heap of trouble.

  • Anonymous

    “the cats also use my yard as a litter box and my dogs end up eating their poop”

    How do you know if it is cat poop or chipmunk poop? That said, if you can’t stand a cat in the yard, you might not like an oil rig in your backyard either. Get it?

  • khakirat

    I would welcome Mike to come drill as I have on some deep leases here at home in Adams county and I’m happy about the interest and you’ll should be as well but the mineral owners have rights as well as anyone!! I will be glad to here those rigs running and making a trip with drill pipe and TD with a great oilwell !! Oil is used not only for petro but perfumes to medical pills so you need to think positive!!

  • khakirat

    Ignorance is when people as yourself talking about folks above the law when you and all Adams county knows B. Brown doesn’t reside in the city holding the office as mayor need to rewrite the codes and the ND wrote statements that he was above the law!! Now where is the city codes of the city huh’??!! If Vaughn is paying his taxes his property is his business and not anyones else and he has rights as everyone else by our US constitution !!

  • Anonymous

    That fact is not only MS law but is the same most anywhere except federal lands (or waters). In some cases, surface owners either initially owned the mineral rights or could acquire them separately from surface purchase. Mineral rights have been routinely retained by some previous owner for many years now and very seldom will you find land that mineral rights go with the land sale..

  • Anonymous

    Thinking positive is saving my/our neighborhood. Thinking positive is keeping my rights! Thinking positive is seeing the local laws enforced! Thinking positive is hoping the term “geterdone” is replaced with something a bit more educated, such as….”get the approvals first!” And lastly, perfumed oils were originally created for those who didn’t bathe regularly and were made with sweet oils such as olive, vegetable, etc…not CRUDE, and I dont know of any medical pills made with crude oil either!

  • Anonymous

    Obviously you and I can and will disagree forever (its obvious you are friends with Mr. Big… and want to feel big by grandstanding on his behalf)… Ignorance is a limit of knowledge/information, and knowledge and information are NOT something I lack… I know my facts and I know the law. I know the Codes and I know they need revamping. I also know the homeowners in the area have rights too. You state RMB has rights and mineral owners have rights, yet you categorically deny the same fact that the homeowners in the area have rights too…and they do! RMB can drill anywhere in the world where its not prohibited…but for this project, in Natchez, its against the law to drill in a residentially zoned neighborhood! End of story!

  • Kenny Powers

    Yeah I get it. It means you don’t care where oil comes from as long as its not from your backyard.
    If I owned the minerals under my trailer I would lease it right meow.