A company proposing exploratory drilling in the backyard of a Port Arthur church has gotten the “go-ahead” from city leaders. In a meeting held at the Port Arthur City Hall on Friday, Nov. 9, elected leaders heard from Ben Balagia, a representative of the Houston-based Tri-C Resources exploration company, who was in town asking for the city’s permission to drill thousands of feet below a 400-acre tract off Highway 73 in search of oil and natural gas.
“If what we think is down there is actually down there,” Balagia prefaced to the council members, “it’ll be enough to justify a pipeline and keep a smile on your face.”
Balagia said Tri-C has acquired permission from the landowner, Central Baptist Church, to dig more than 11,000 feet below a portion of land thought to be rich with valuable minerals. The city of Port Arthur also holds the deed to land encumbered in the proposed drill site, and stands to gain royalties from any discovery.
According to Balagia, the company already has plans with how to proceed in the likely event oil is found, which includes the aforementioned pipeline. City attorney Valecia Tizeno said the city has ordinances in place that cover how the proposed drilling will be handled.
“There is a very detailed method that will cover this process,” Tizeno assured council members who were concerned about hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” tearing up city and residential property, in addition to general degradation to residents’ quality of life in the proposed drill area. As part of the process in obtaining permission to drill in Port Arthur, Tri-C has already completed the municipal application and paid the required permitting fees, gained the support of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, has written permission from the property’s owner, and secured bonding for the project. Friday’s meeting at city hall was the final step toward drilling, giving the public an opportunity to comment on the proposal. No one spoke against allowing the permit.
Balagia said there would be an estimated 30 days of drilling time on the site, barring difficulties.
Jennifer Johnson can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 231, or by e-mail at jennifer [at] theexaminer [dot] com.