Don't Expect Fireworks When the City Council Takes Up Gas Drilling Proposals Tomorrow

HensleyFieldDrilling_Neumann2.jpg
Patrick Michels
Councilman Dave Neumann says his plans to postpone a decision on XTO's gas drilling permits tomorrow are still set. "Honestly, I think it'll be anticlimactic," he says.
Robert already alerted us to that item on tomorrow's council agenda regarding XTO Energy's proposal to drill at two of the sites it leased from the city back in 2007 -- along with the newsworthy note that city staff in Sustainable Development and Construction recommended approving the applications, cutting against a narrow denial by the City Plan Commission last fall.

The question, then, was how much that would mean for a third option that's been proposed by Dave Neumann -- to postpone the decision, take a little time to study it, and get back sometime this summer.

Dedicated followers of fracking will have seen Rudy Bush's take on that question earlier today, but Neumann reached Unfair Park this afternoon to reiterate and elaborate: "I will be recommending postponing a decision on their SUP request," the councilman tells us.

"I stated that in advance of the public hearing in December, because I wanted to communicate it to my colleagues and my constituents. My statements on that stand today," he says -- which is a different tune than his challenger in the upcoming council election, Scott Griggs, was singing last month, when he called Neumann out for doing a 180 on gas drilling in his district.

Neumann says he's made folks at XTO aware of his plans to push for a time-out, and says "there's a consensus on the council to postpone moving forward. ... Quite honestly, I think it'll be anticlimactic tomorrow," Neumann says.

Assuming that all goes down as expected, then, how about the make-up of the task force they'll assemble? And what to do about XTO's leases, set to expire next month?

Neumann says assembling that task force will be the next order of business after the postponement, something that he'll continue to work on with Angela Hunt and Linda Koop. Neumann says he'll have to check the council calendar first, but would probably look at bringing the question back up around June.

"The extension of the lease is a separate contractual issue," Neumann says, and while he knows XTO has asked for an extension, he doesn't want to tie these questions together tomorrow. A few months back, an XTO spokesman said it was too soon to consider how the company would react if its leases expired without city approval to drill. Late last month, Titan Operating and Keystone Exploration both sued the city of Flower Mound after the city's Oil and Gas Board of Appeals denied them variances to drill.

Jenny Land, who's been a ringleader in the opposition to drilling in the city limits, says she'll still be on hand to speak to the council tomorrow, along with a handful of other folks who've been along for the ride so far. She says she's "cautiously optimistic" the postponement will go through.

"We're all waiting for Dave to do his big show. If he makes that motion, I assume that there would be no call for a vote," says Dallas gas drilling activist Raymond Crawford. Because the Plan Commission voted to deny XTO's applications, when the council does eventually take its vote, four council members would be enough to vote it down. "I'm just perplexed that they [city staff] recommended approval," Crawford says.

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