At City Hall, A New Lease for XTO's Drilling Plans and An Update on Dallas' Budget Shortfall

HensleyField_aerial.jpg
Hensley Field, where XTO Energy hopes to begin Dallas' first gas drilling operation.
I'm wedged into the corner of the briefing room at City Hall -- no complaints, because really, Brad Watson needs his legroom. The council's running through its various opening proclamations -- Delia Jasso just introduced Oak Cliff's Better Block Bunch right now, including Jason Roberts and council challenger Scott Griggs, who didn't show -- and the room is filling in with the gas drilling crowd.

They're overflowing into the hallway, in ties, coats and dreadlocks, anxious to have their say as the council considers a pair of proposals relating to XTO Energy's application to drill at Hensley Field in far western Oak Cliff.

You'll recall Dave Neumann said last week he'll plan on bumping XTO's drilling application back a few months to allow time to study the issue -- but not before the entire council considers a new proposal, to extend XTO's leases of city land, set to expire in February, for another 30 months.

That'd leave their leases in place till well past this fall, when Neumann said he'd probably suggest XTO's application come back before the council. And Patricia Major, the first of the public to speak on the issue, is up now extolling Neumann's "great wisdom" in suggesting the council delay all this until the "science gets lined up with the politlcs."

Carolyn Davis is taking a stand now, as the coucil gets ready to vote on the lease renewals, because she doesn't think they've included anything "to make people feel good about that neighborhood."

"You can Google natural gas drilling and you will find a list of problems about natural gas and the problems gas drilling has caused."

Hunt begins by thanking everyone in the crowded room for turning up, and says it's important for "everyone to understand no SUP is being granted today."

"I think we need to take a look at what the task force analysis is before we consider any SUP," but the lease extension, she says, "allows all of us to take a step back," so she says she'll support it. Though she reminds, she has "grave reservations" about the drilling in general.

Caraway, though, says he's concerned about "waiting 30 months and just letting it sit there." There's a city process that must be followed, and that must be followed. Now the lease is running out, he says, so if they want to sit on the city's land, well, they'd better pay up again.

"Neighbors, I'm listening to you. I am listening to you. I'm listening to the neighbors. I'm listening to the neighbors. I want the neighbors to understand that," he says. "The city of Dallas is my district," he says, so he's looking out for folks even though they're in Neumann's district.

Kadane counters Caraway's point that XTO was late applying for their SUP. "I know how the oil companies work," he says, but he doesn't think XTO knew they'd have trouble getting an SUP from the city. Neumann got half the lease acreage taken out, he says, and that's big.

The vote to extend the leases goes through, and it's all yays except for Davis and Caraway.
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22 comments
Marc
Marc

Well, the jig is up! We now know why the Dallas City Council was considering approval of an exception to the gas well drilling ordnances at DFW International Airport today.

It turns out that Chesapeake Energy has already drilled 112 gas wells on airport property, as well as injection wells for disposal of their toxic wastewater. They were seeking the right to bring wastewater from other Barnett Shale well sites onto the DFW Airport property to dispose of it, too.

The Dallas City Council acted dumbfounded when they were told that 112 gas wells already exist on DFW Airport property, and they voted not to allow any frac fluids to be disposed of there other than from the existing 112 wells. We assume that includes not allowing disposal of wastewater from any additional wells that may be drilled on airport property.

Now, either our City Council is composed of utter and completely brain-dead idiots or else it is composed of pathological liars. I tend to think it is a combination of the two.

Both Dallas and Fort Worth City Councils have to jointly approve any activities on airport property. Therefore, how is it even remotely possible that our city council could have NOT known about the number of wells that Chesapeake has already drilled there? Each well requires a separate SUP that has to be jointly approved. Therefore, our Dallas City Council HAD to have approved each SUP before Chesapeake could drill.

Today, we found out just how completely dishonest and disconnected our local government really is. We found out why our air is the mess that it is, and why we have to pay twice the rate of other areas of the state for vehicle inspections due to our filthy air that has been in EPA non-attainment for many years. A study done by SMU found that Barnett Shale hazardous air emissions are equal to that of all the automobile emissions in DFW combined!

The Dallas City Council has fracked us again, and they didn't even use Vaseline!

Marc
Marc

There are a number of words that come to mind when thinking about the Dallas City Council and how it operates in secret and at the peril of citizens. Some of those words are "sleazy", "corrupt", "unfriendly", "criminal", "rude", "condescending" and a few others that are not so nice.

On January 19, 2011, our City Council passed a moratorium on natural gas well drilling in the City of Dallas - or so we thought. It turns out they carefully worded their moratorium to apply ONLY to the Hensley Field site, and not to any other future drilling site inside our city limits. And, our City Council granted a 30-month extension of the leases on city property to XTO Energy (owned by ExxonMobil, which regularly posts $50+ BILLION annual profits) at no additional cost so that they would have a chance to drill on public lands before the end of the lease agreement that they purchased three years ago, and then waited until the last possible minute to try and utilize. It makes one wonder how many other companies get free land leases from our city. My guess is ZERO! The rest have to pay to rent or lease city land. And, to make it worse, we are facing a budget shortfall of AT LEAST $41 to 96 Million over the next two years.

Further, the permit application for XTO's Luminant well site at FM 1382 (Beltline Road) and Camp Wisdom Road is STILL on the agenda for the Dallas City Plan Commission meeting on February 17, 2011. That's the site located just below the dam at Joe Pool Reservoir, where a failure of the dam caused by fracturing the earth below tha dam footing would flood thousands of homes and possibly kill thousands of people, especially if the dam broke in the middle of the night when people were asleep. That XTO site was NOT included in the "moratorium" presented by Councilman Dave Neumann last week, and this was an intentional ploy by city leaders Neumann, Leppert and Suhm to placate concerned citizens while going ahead with plans to frac our city, possibly polluting our air, water and soil.

If all of that was not enough, we have just learned that the City Council tried to sneak in a "consent item" vote, disallowing public comment, related to allowing frac fluids to be injected into wells located on the property of DFW International Airport. The issue was set for a vote on Wednesday, January 26, 2011, but it appears that immediate heat from concerned citizens has forced a postponement until a date uncertain. We are also being told that public comments WILL be taken when this item is heard by the City Council. But, considering everything else they tell us, who can believe them? We'll just have to wait and see if they hear from us.

What is so disquieting about this matter is the fact that frac chemicals are highly caustic, corrosive and explosive. You cannot carry toothpaste, soap or deodorant on an airliner because it might be a flammable, explosive, corrosive compound that endangers the safety of the plane and its passengers. But, the City of Dallas thinks it is okay to inject chemicals that are thousands of times more caustic, corrosive, explosive and hazardous into the ground beneath our airport where the vapors and condensate can rise to the surface and expose those airliners to the greatest threats possible - threats that would jeopardize airframes, engines, fuel systems, hydraulic systems, electrical systems, instrument systems, as well as flight crews and passengers, airport workers and visitors to the area.

What is so galling is the fact that even after all the public discussion and feigned empathy for public concerns our city leadership was going to proceed with gas well drilling immediately after falsely leading us to believe that they had just enacted a moratorium. It is this level of deceit and fraud that makes a reasonable person question the integrity of our City Council. It constantly forces us to cut into our productive work time, recreation time, family time and other personal pursuits to monitor their every move and attend daytime meetings to speak up against issues that concern us so greatly.

If you are a resident of the City of Dallas, then you are urged to consider these sneaky, underhanded actions when you go to the polls to vote for a new city government in May. Apparently, the one we now have does not like us or care about our health and safety. It is time to send them back to their regular jobs and let somebody else have a shot at running our city.

Marc
Marc

Today, we won a major victory, even if it is only a temporary one. In the ensuing 9 months much more will be learned about the dangers and risks of hydraulic fracturing. Personally, I do not agree with the sentiment of the 1,000 foot setback rule being considered. I think we need a 1,000 mile setback rule - from any human and from any water source!

Mankind has inhabited this rock for between 200,000 and 400,000 years, yet we never used any oil or gas until 1860 - we CAN live without them, although I will be the first to admit that life would be very different, a lot less convenient and probably a whole lot healthier. There are two things that are absolutely essential to every human, animal and plant that lives on this planet - clean air and clean water. In our entire history as a species nobody ever survived without those two things. Today, thousands of people per day around the world die due to a lack of clean water, and while dirty air does not kill as many, still it does kill a lot of people and reduces the quality of life for many more.

I want to compliment Mayor Leppert for showing up today when he was expected to be at the National Mayors' Conference in Washington, DC. I was pretty hard on him for ducking out on this one, but he came through and was a part of what transpired today. I am not, however, giving him a free pass on his rude and condescending attitude toward Dallas citizens who came last week and again today to speak about things that matter to them.

We were told by the City Secretary that we would each have three minutes to give our comments. Both last week, and again this week, Mayor Leppert reduce our time to just two minutes. Yet, a week ago yesterday, he spent an extended amount of time in a private meeting with XTO and ExxonMobil officials hearing their concerns and working out a deal to extend their lease without them having to pay additional money to the city.

To be sure, Dwaine Caraway was correct in his analysis of this situation. XTO had three years in which to get their permits and start drilling. Despite what Councilman Kadane said, it was not that this was not a high priority for XTO or ExxonMobil, but rather due to the fact that natural gas is selling at half the rate needed for profitability, and XTO delayed hoping for an increase in market prices. XTO assumed that the SUP would be a done deal. They never expected to encounter an opposition citizenry armed with facts and figures to show how dangerous and risky gas well drilling is, especially in densely-populated urban areas.

XTO should have had to pay additional fees for the land leases, so our City Council, which is facing a massive budget shortfall of a projected $41 to 96 million, left money on the table in order to placate an oil and gas industry giant. In other words, you and I are subsidizing a lease for a company that earns $50 BILLION in PROFITS per year while the rest of us struggle to pay our bills and eat.

The City of Dallas will NOT be the next Jed Clampett. No individual who signed or who signs a minerals lease will be the next Jed Clampett. Our city is on the far eastern edge of the Barnett Shale where a viable flow is least likely to be found. If a viable flow is not found, then wells will be capped and abandoned, and we will be left with our earth pumped full of benzene, toluene, strontium, arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium, ethylbenzene, xylene, sulphuric acid, hydrosulphuric acid, uric acid, citric acid, surfactants, kerosene, diesel and hundreds of other toxic, neurotoxic and carcinogenic chemicals that will eventually migrate into our water tables, aquifers, lakes, rivers, creeks, soil and air through the very same fractures created by the hydraulic fracturing process to extract the gas, and through natural fissures and faults that exist in rock formations and layers of dirt between the surface and the depth of the well bore.

For anybody who doubts the seriousness of this issue may I suggest that you kindly go to the nearest service station and spend a few hours sniffing vapors from the pump nozzle. In short order you will have cancers, respiratory ailments, reproductive problems, severe memory loss and other things that will make the rest of your greatly shortened life miserable for you, your family and your friends. This is the same type of vapors that you will be breathing when gas wells are drilled in your neighborhood or downwind of the drilling sites.

This is a deadly serious issue that requires people getting educated and involved in order to protect our health, safety, environment, property values and our very survival as a species on this planet.

We only have one environment. When we destroy it, then we destroy ourselves, and we WILL become as extinct as the dinosaurs that also died because of environmental pollution, the diffference being that their's was NOT man-made and ours is!

darrd
darrd

What a day of surprises! Leppert showed up instead of the mayors conference in D.C.We loves us some Davis, Caraway, and Hunt. Those three were excellent in their remarks at the meeting. They get the idea that we all breathe the same air Kadane? waste of time.And Natinsky can't participate 'cause he has a conflict? Okay Patrick, now follow that lead...If the man has money from XTO, let's hear about it BEFORE he runs for mayor, okay?

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Those of you still tuned in for a budget update -- we're back from executive session, and I'll have more on that in a separate blog item that'll post once the council gets into the budget discussion.

As you'll read there, Neumann goofed on that October 12 date -- council won't actually meet that day, so the next consideration of XTO's SUP application will be October 26.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

It's a quick vote now, with only Davis (again!) voting no. Now we're getting kicked out for executive session -- stay tuned here though. I'll be back for more talk about the budget from Mary Suhm.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Caraway compares this gas drilling proposal to the lead smelter the city dealt with in 1991. "If they have and effect on the quality of life for people, then they must be addressed." More specifically, he says, he wants to discuss forcing the drilling rigs to stay farther than 1,000 feet from surrounding homes. "1,000 feet in my opinion is not far enough from someone's house."

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Leppert suggests taking a vote on Neumann's motion, reminding that Ron Natinsky has recused himself from all the talk about XTO.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

We need to "go slow, be smart and be fair," Neumann says, public comment now closed. He's describing the panel he wants to form, to include "experts who can come in and bring fair, firm, accurate feedback to respond to citizens' concerns."

He moves to postpone till October 12.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Jenny Land is up, reminding the council of how many people "had their time wasted" when they turned up last week just to see this bumped back a week. She says Dallas ought to get on board with other long-term moratoriums around the country. "The tide is already turning," she said.

Land says he father died young from, suffering the effects of chemical pollution. "While some of you may be organizing behind the scenes deals with XTO, I'm going to be ringing your constituents' doorbells because nobody deserves to die my father's death," she says, to many hoots and hollers from the crowd.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

A woman whose named I missed just quoted from EPA regional administrator Al Armendariz's report on gas drilling's impact on air quality around the Barnett Shale, saying that Steve Salazar's office distributed copies of it to every council member yesterday.

Raymond
Raymond

Yeah for Davis, Caraway, and Hunt.Kadane.... Not so much.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Jeffrey Jacoby at Texas Campaign for the Environment is talking about that task force too. Around the country, too often, he says, "these task forces are nothing more than lip service... and at the end of the day, their recommendations are nothing more than business as usual."

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Ray Crawford reminds the council that Dallas' air is some of the worst in the nation. "I'm sure nobody on this council would want their names to be connected on the record to this application," he says, innocently enough, and suggests the task force formed during this break be stocked with scientists and residents.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

The council's opened the floor for comment on the SUP application, even though Leppert's reminded the room that he gave everyone a chance to comment last week, and we all know it's going to be deferred anyway.

Frequent flyer Marc McCord is up speaking first, telling the council "We're not going to be the next Jed Clampett" getting rich off our cut of the gas produced on this land, because it's not prime territory in the Barnett Shale.

Huh?
Huh?

You are off your rocker, Marc. When a person or company buys a right from a city, and then the city unilaterally refuses to issue a permit allowing that person or company to exercise those rights before the rights lapse, the person/company should have to pony up again to regain those rights? If this weren't an evil gas company raping the earth, that doesn't sound like something you'd agree with. But as Carolyn Davis' google search and your rant prove, this obviously is an evil gas company raping the earth. And I hear you say we should have 1,000-mile setbacks from water sources. You better start learning to clinch your buttcheeks real tight, because your turds do a lot more damage to our drinking water than a properly-cemented gas well targeting a formation thousands of feet below the nearest aquifers.

Eatshite
Eatshite

I assume you are pedaling your bicycle to power your computer and walking to your job with natual rubber shoes, eating only the organic food youve grown in your backyard.

I love hydraulic fracing, the advancments in drilling make my Reliant bill way cheaper, cars are pretty cool too, they take me to my job and other places I want to go, and sometimes I get on an airplane to travel across the country without the burden of a mule and a wagon. I guess you have kids Marc and are worried about your special linieage carring on in fruitful manner. If you really wanted to save the planted you wouldnt participate in throwing gas on the fire of what is this human race that so disgistusts you

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

I assume you're coming back to the office with a copy ...?

Marc
Marc

Patrick,

I am sorry that we did not get an opportunity to talk today. It was a great day for those who oppose unsafe and risky drilling activities. The City Council has not yet heard the last from our group unless they decide to take the reasonable approach and say "NO!" to urban gas well drilling.

Hopefully, we will have an opportunity to meet soon.

Marc

Marc
Marc

You are off YOUR rocker, and you know nothing about that contract. If you did, then you would know that it specifically stated that acquiring the Special Use Permit (SUP) was a requirement of the lease, and there was NO guarantee that the SUP would be granted.

Marc
Marc

Obviously, you have been doing your own alias. If you actually knew anything about the natural gas industry, then you would not be making absurd statements like the ones above.

People survived on this planet until 1860 without ANY use of gas or oil. Nobody and nothing every existed without clean air and water. Those are facts.

It does not make ANY sense to keep using fossil fuels if we kill ourselves in the process. If you studied this issue, then you would know the facts rather than relying on your rhetoric.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

I've been committing the entire thing to memory over the last few weeks, so pick a soundtrack and name your time, and I'll give it the beat poetry treatment it deserves.

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