City officials monitoring Arlington site for oil drilling activity

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, May 8, 2013

NATCHEZ — Natchez city officials said they’re monitoring the historic Arlington property after concerned residents in the area alleged they saw workers prepping the site for oil drilling.

The spokesman for the company seeking to do the drilling — RMB Exploration — denies anything is going on.

Natchez City Planner Frankie Legaux said she drove to the Arlington property Monday and saw some evidence that some earth grading had been done.

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“We are still trying to sort that out exactly what is going on, what they are doing and why they are doing it,” Legaux said. “I have not been able to talk with the owners.”

Mike Biglane, who has been the face of RMB Drilling throughout the company’s yearlong efforts to drill an oil well on the Arlington property, said the company is not doing anything on the property.

“Nothing is going on out there,” he said. “There is nothing going on.”

No work on the property — which has become increasingly overgrown — was visible from its State Street entrance Tuesday.

RMB Exploration has sought to drill a well on the Arlington property since early 2012, a request that was greeted with hostility from neighbors who did not want an oil well in a residential area. The company was denied a permit to drill by the city preservation commission.

Others expressed concern the well could have an impact on Arlington itself, which has been placed on the state’s list of endangered historic properties. A fire significantly damaged the building, a declared National Historic Landmark, in 2002.

The preservation commission denied the drilling request a second time in January.

In February, the Mississippi Oil and Gas Board approved RMB Exploration’s application to drill the site, but the approval is contingent on RMB getting permits from other applicable entities, such as the city.

Biglane said Tuesday the company is still waiting for the city to move the process forward.

Legaux said while she waits to hear from the property owners, she has contacted the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to see if the site needs a permit.

“Any kind of land disturbing activity that is under 1 acre does not require any kind of permit,” she said. “Activity up to five acres needs a stormwater plan on site, and any work over five acres you have to have MDEQ approval.”

Legaux said the work she observed looks like it could be oil-well related, but she is not sure.

“We are monitoring it,” she said. “We can’t say that there is nothing (happening).”