LIBERAL, Kansas – The Liberal City Commission has now banned surface drilling within city limits and officials believe the move will actually bring jobs to the town.
“Oil and gas is key to this part of the country. We welcome oil and gas drilling, we welcome oil field businesses,” said City Commissioner Joe Denover.
While Liberal sees the economic opportunity in oil and natural gas, the city will no longer allow surface drilling within city limits after a Tuesday commission vote.
“As the town grows, you know houses get built and you don’t want somebody drilling next to a house, or businesses, or schools. For safety reasons and health concerns.”
The Kansas town isn’t the first community to ban drilling because of health concerns regarding water contamination, but that wasn’t their only reason.
Residents have been looking forward to a Walmart grocery store on the west side of town for a few months, but because the future building site was leased to an oil company when the developer bought it, it became a concern for the tenant on this property and they wouldn’t finalize plans until they knew drilling would never be an issue.
As for existing operations already going on within city limits, the commission says that won’t be a problem. They’ll be grandfathered in and won’t be affected by the ordinance.
If in the future a company wants to access oil or natural gas beneath Liberal, they’ll be allowed to drill horizontally from a point outside of the city. In the meantime, the new grocery store will create 98 jobs and is the first market on the west side of town.
The city expects developers to break ground in February or March and the grocery store should open by early fall.