Arlington oil well developer makes request to state board

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, June 20, 2012

NATCHEZ — The Arlington oil well developer has filed an emergency request with the Mississippi State Oil and Gas Board to get on the board’s docket for its meeting today, but the board’s attorney said the board will not hear the matter until its July meeting.

Howard Leach, attorney for the oil and gas board, said Tuesday that Mike Biglane of RMB Exploration filed a petition to be placed on the board’s docket on an emergency basis seeking a drilling permit.

The Natchez Preservation and Planning commissions recently denied approval for Biglane’s proposed oil operation on historic Arlington property.

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The Natchez Board of Aldermen denied last week Biglane’s appeal to the preservation commission’s decision.

Leach said because of the “sensitive nature” of and opposition from local governmental entities to Biglane’s proposed operation, the board will continue discussion of Biglane’s permit until its July 18 meeting.

Docket items, Leach said, normally have to be filed a month ahead of time. In an emergency situation, however, the board may approve an emergency docket item to be heard without the mandated 20 day-public notice. Board orders for emergency items are only good for 45 days, and a developer must appear again at the board’s next meeting for permanent approval.

“Based upon the facts as we know them, this situation doesn’t appear to be a true emergency, and there doesn’t seem to be any compelling reason why it can’t wait until July 18,” Leach said. “The board wasn’t planning on approving it, so I believe (Biglane) has withdrawn his request.”

Leach said the board would like to take the time to gather the facts and issues with the proposed operation, as well as give the adequate public notice and invite local leaders to attend the July 18 meeting.

The question, Leach said, is whether a permit from the oil and gas board for the oil operation would allow Biglane to drill without city approval.

“I can’t comment on that because I haven’t thought that far,” Leach said. “There are some real interesting legal questions involved in this matter.”

Leach also said that it may take a court to decide the complicated issues with drilling near historic Arlington.

“You get into land use issues and all sorts of things, and those are the things the board wants to hear argued and fleshed out before making a decision,” Leach said.