Liveblogging City Council's Look at Gas Drilling Task Force. Or: The Return of Lois Finkelman!

dontfrackme_tshirt.jpg
Welcome back to City Hall, where the council's settling back into their seats in the briefing room after a much-needed break for lunch.

Word was that the council was going to treat us to its gas drilling update in the morning -- but after taking an extra-long executive session to work out just who'll get to say what, it was time for lunch.

It's already been the topic of conversation in the public comment period, where gas drilling activist Raymond Crawford showed off his five-foot Barnett Shale map dotted with all the gas drilling operations from here to Fort Worth, as of last Thursday, he said.

Ed Meyer, another activist who lives near one of XTO Energy's proposed drilling sites on city land, urged the council to not only create its own task force to study gas drilling, but to give industry fewer places at the table. As it's proposed right now, he said, "This task force leaves a lot more room for industry and a lot less room for residents."

Theresa O'Donnell just kicked things off here, promising a tag-team walk-through of the latest council briefing, and she knows just how to grab this council's attention -- edu-tainment video! Jump for a play-by-play.

O'Donnell says she spent a while trying to find a video clip that wouldn't be too biased one way or the other, and settled on a clip from Tarrant County that's pretty close to even, if "a little pro-industry."

It starts off with a peppy synth soundtrack, and voiceover suggesting that "You may have noticed" a whole bunch of new industry popping up around Fort Worth. It's drillers! They've gone a-frackin' for gas down in the shale! It suffers from a serious lack of cartoon mascots, which might not sit well with this council, but there are some serious talking heads in suits and plenty of dudes in hard hats in front of fun equipment.

The 10-minute video is full of language about the great economic benefits drilling will bring Fort Worth, and the minimal risk of environmental impact. It's a good thing they got everyone together to watch this thing in the same room, and pass meaningful looks across the horseshoe while the music plays. Anyway, you might've already done some reading for yourself about gas drilling, but you can still take a minute, check a little of the latest news, and you'll be up to speed for the rest of the conversation.

O'Donnell's outlining each of the three options the city's proposed for the council -- to form a task force, hire an outside consultant or simply sit back and watch what everyone else does. Generally, though, she doesn't sound too keen on blowing money on an expensive new study. "There's lot of good work going on in the region, there's no reason to duplicate that work," she says.

With that, she's turned it over to the council and here we go with the round of back-slappin' and thanks, first for Angela Hunt, then "most of all," for Dave Neumann, and for Linda Koop. "There's nothing wrong with review. There's nothing wrong with research," Caraway says, with the stunning admission that he's not a gas drilling expert himself.

He says the task force is a done deal, with four-term council woman Lois Finkleman set to chair the new city gas drilling task force. He also says there'll be an ad hoc committee on the council -- to pick task force members, sounds like -- and it'll be run by the brightest scientific minds the council has to offer: chaired by Linda Koop, with Dave Neumann as vice-chair and ... Carolyn Davis on board as well. Other council members cough Angela Hunt cough are free to pile on too, if they like, Caraway says. "At the end of the day, we want to do what is best, what is right and most of all what is safe for the City of Dallas," he says.

Join me in the comments for more.

Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
47 comments
Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

What happens, if the City and its committee decides the risk is to high, to drill on land leased by the City, to gas company. Has the city already spent the money,will they return it.All this should have been done prior to accepting their money.This is another bad management decision to get money.Angela ask former Mayor Lepperrt to form Task Force,he didn't, I'm happy Mayor Caraway was not afraid to form one.That's the Mayor you people said would be a bad Mayor ,because he believes in the American system,and what the bible says about forgiveness of sin.

WCGasette
WCGasette

That first speaker was not Ed Ireland with the BSEEC even though Mayor Caraway kept referring to him as Ireland. Ed is bald.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Caraway wants to se the ad hoc committee get some suggestions together for forming the task force, and come back to the full council to vote this forward later.

"We kinda got a census here," Caraway says, and with a slam of his gavel... we're done worrying about the environment for a while. Join us next time.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Kadane wants to know how you're going to pick out the environmentalists from among the citizens -- they're all gonna be environmentalists, really, so "it's already weighted eight to three" for the environmentalists against industry.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Koop knows how to settle this, though. Listen up guys, here's how they do it at the COG, where industry and greenies walk hand in hand through the regulatory mire, and the discussion itself is the important thing, not who gets to vote and who doesn't. "So far it has not been an issue, voting or non-voting."

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Caraway says it'll be up to the council to vet the task force for any potential conflicts of interest when it's picking members.

Caraway says sure, let's have business on board, just as long as they don't vote -- sparking much grumbling around the horseshoe.

Margolin is the first to use her words: "If you do that, you are still weighing the ultimate results toward the environmental groups." "You're completely destroying the balance that you're rtying to create with this committee."

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Hunt asks Neumann to clarify -- he wants both industry reps and businesses on the task force? Neumann says yes, exactly.

That sounds great, Hunt says. Let's make sure that three-person category for industry and business reps on the task force should include "Margaret Keliher and other business representatives who may not work for a drilling company."

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Neumann does want to make a stand for the little guy, though, wondering why we'd leave industry off the table just because they stand to gain from a vote. "We still want the industry involved and engaged, as a participant, just a non-voter."

Margolin wonders why you'd take their votes away at all -- they may have a vested interest in the business, but who else is going to balance out the environmentalists?

JimS
JimS

Jasso has emphasized the importance of having diversity on the task force. I quite agree. We need to have the very different and unique perspectives of African-Americans, Anglos, Hispanics and persons of other ethnicities and backgrounds on getting blown to bits in your bed.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Ooh, and we're nearly done. Steve Salazar said a few words that sounded a fair bit like the words that preceded him. Now it's on to Neumann to close it out!

claytonauger
claytonauger

BTW - it's really impressive to see both Jim and Patrick so hard at work.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Things are dragging on here. Air's sort of left the room and we've all been in the room a while. But Caraway as announces, "Ms. Jasso, please!" we're all jostled a little to attention. Jasso has a simple point: "Let's not rob Peter to pay Paul." She says it a couple times. Strong guidance on the tough budget calls to come.

claytonauger
claytonauger

Clarification: As of 2011, it's releases of a specific type of smog-forming pollution, Volatile Organic Compounds, emitted by the gas industry that are more voluminous in North Texas than the VOCs released by all the car and trucks in DFW. VOCs is a category that includes nasty carcinogens like Benzene and Formaldehyde. These are air toxins in their own right, but they also can turn into smog.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Koop is waxing wrappy-uppy about "best practices" and "lessons learned" from her work on the North Texas COG's gas drilling task force, even offering a sneak preview about that nasty Armendariz study about Barnett Shale emissions -- she says task force members, should they take the challenge, will learn that lots of that came from "rural areas," in fact.

Where nobody breathes all that much, anyway.

WCGasette
WCGasette

A good "working knowledge" would include calling it "shale gas drilling." It helps with that working knowledge thingy.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Koop says inspection is going to be a big issue too -- especially if TCEQ is so understaffed. "It's incumbent on us as a permitting agent to take care of that."

Worth mentioning, maybe, that the city put out a request for bids for an outside gas drilling inspector just a couple months ago, but didn't get any bids.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Jerry Allen says it's amazing to think of this task force lasting more than a year, when so many other cities are so far ahead of Dallas studying this. To paraphrase, Allen says there's no sense reinventing the wheel. Or to quote him directly, "Git 'er done, they say. Git 'er done."

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Tennell Atkins is taking his turn with Margolin's budget hawk costume, saying he's concerned about safety too, but he doesn't want to spend a dime before giving Mary Suhm the chance to work some money-raising tricks and spare the city's budget. "You can pull a rabbit out of a hat," he tells Suhm.

"We might need to go out to the private sector, we don't know,"Atkins says. And really, I can think of a few private sectors that'd be interested in helping Dallas light the way.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Carolyn Davis is up now, and she wants to grill city staff on how XTO and other gas drillers are structured -- if they have a separate board of directors that just handles gas drilling. Then she wants to know some even more serious things -- the difference between "gas drilling" and "gas processing," for one, and what happens when a gas drilling company is done with a site.

O'Donnell tells her companies will have to submit a reclamation plan when they're done with a site and ready to close shop.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Hunt says sure, other members are worried about how much this task force is going to cost -- but "I would remind us, this is a public health and safety issue," she says. "This is not simply an exercise in public discourse. It is a cost I believe we'l have to bear, just as we bear the cost of other public health and safety issues."

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Hunt mentions Al Armendariz's 2009 study which said gas drilling in the Barnett Shale contributed as much to smog as all the traffic on the roads around Dallas-Fort Worth.

(It's here: www.edf.org/documents/9235_Bar...

City staff tells her sure, and the TCEQ's latest estimate for 2012 is that Barnett Shale gas drilling pollution will even contribute more to smog than road pollution.

"That's remarkable. That's troubling," Hunt says.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Next, Hunt wants to know who regulates water use and disposal -- all the gallons of water needed for fracking operations, and the tainted water produced by the process. O'Donnell says the city doesn't regulate how much water they're using.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Hunt also wants to know if current SUP-holders will be subject to any changes to the gas drilling ordinance the task force comes up with.

O'Donnell says sure, you can call those SUPs back up and see about updating them. "Council rarely does that, but you do have an ability to do that."

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Hunt is up now, asking how many TCEQ inspectors are out there to watch our backs. "Based on anecdotal evidence, most people say they're understaffed," comes the answer from city staff.

Which, thanks to the environmentalists in the crowd, is the biggest laugh line of the day so far.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Medrano says bringing in folks with civic experience with gas drilling, like Arlington City Council member Kathryn Wilemon, will also help limit the costs Dallas will have to foot to study gas drilling.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Pauline Medrano jumps in to thank Angela Hunt again. She wonders about the future of the land where any gas drilling sites are approved. "Who's going to want to move there, or near those drilling sites?"

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

"We don't have any dedicated staff for this effort," O'Donnell says. "We will divert resources."

Margolin says the gas drilling study shouldn't be "a completely open-ended thing."

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Margolin's putting on her budget hawk hat -- not as much fun as it sounds -- to say no way, no how does she want to pay an outside consultant to look at gas drilling, not with Fort Worth and all the other folks already paying for studies. "For once in the life of this city, maybe someone else has spent money that we don't have to spend," Margolin says.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

"The range of what the city has jurisdiction over is not infinite. It's not within our power to say there will be no drilling in Dallas... or is that incorrect?" Margolin asks. City Attorney Tom Perkins says that's true, all kinds of regulations preempt the city, so we can't just make it impossible to drillers to operate here.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Ann Margolin is up now, to find out what exactly the city regulates, and what the EPA, the state and the county are responsible for. "Where do we fit in our ability to preempt and make them stronger?"

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Sheffie's getting serious with O'Donnell. He wants to talk roads. What if they cut through a "foresty area," he wonders. What about a gravel road? Do they all need special permits?

Sure, O'Donnell says, no one's cutting down trees to make a road to a pad site without the city knowing all about it. "They have to keep those roads in good condition and maintained," she says. The city requires them to submit a video of the roads.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Sheffie Kadane is up next, asking O'Donnell if there are any drilling rigs up in the city now. No, she says, just some with approved SUPs. As she explained earlier, drillers would need both an SUP and a drilling permit from the city's Building Inspection office.

The briefing doc says five drilling SUPs have been issued in Dallas already, and eight are in the pipeline. So to speak.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Neumann's "enthusiastic about the report" from O'Donnell, he says, calling it "a very solid foundation block." He's repeating something his Plan Commissioner Mike Anglin said at a hearing over XTO Energy's SUP a while back, that regardless of the sort of industry, they've always got a responsibility "not be detrimental to the general public's health, safety and general welfare." Nothin personal, gas drillers!

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Neumann jumps in to deal O'Donenll the first questions, wondering how Dallas's zoning standards match up with other cities around the Barnett Shale. Dallas standards mandate keeping gas drilling operations 300 whole feet away from houses, he says, but what do other cities do? 1,000 feet? 1,500 feet? O'Donnell tells him sure, Fort Worth's standard is 1,000 feet.

Marc
Marc

For the umpteenth time, let me say this again: The city never did a quid pro quo with XTO and Trinity East when they took $33.8 million for those leases. The leases always had the stipulation that drilling required granting an SUP and a permit, and that those would be based upon criteria established for regulating this industrial process.

The money paid to the city was for exclusive leases on the land - NOT for any rights to drill. We owe them nothing if they cannot drill. In fact, they SHOULD owe us more money for the additional 30 months that Leppert and Newmann gave them for free.

If you want to worry about something, then worry about frac fluids in your water, VOCs and NOx in your air, and well or pipeline explosions that kill people and destroy property.

matilda of tuscany
matilda of tuscany

Those damn citizens, worrying about the air their kids breathe. The horror--they must be a special interest group we need to protect ourselves against.

claytonauger
claytonauger

But there are no gas industry reps on the COG committee - Chamber of Commerce reps, but no gas industry folk.

Cliff Dweller
Cliff Dweller

Maybe Domingo needs another commission to be on. . .

Jay
Jay

No, instead let's rob Archie to pay Paul......

JimS
JimS

I prefer gas-hell drilling.

WCGasette
WCGasette

Those guys are very expensive. There's one that seems to represent a lot of cities. But he really doesn't really "inspect" the wells. He sure gets paid a lot.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

He not only embarrassed himself, he just went way down in my ratings book.Very disappointing in his response. His district deserves much better than this attitude.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Nothing to see here, folks. Let's wrap this up asap and "git 'er done!"

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

Let's repeat that Patrick:

City staff tells her sure, and the TCEQ's latest estimate for 2012 is that Barnett Shale gas drilling pollution will even contribute more to smog than road pollution.

"That's remarkable. That's troubling," Hunt says.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...