Activists Ask West to Kill Bill That Would Gut Cities' Ability to Regulate Gas Drilling

GasDrilling_pressconf_Crawford.jpg
Photo by Patrick Michels
Raymond Crawford and his 21-foot-long scroll of signatures unfurled at Dallas City Hall on April 20
Dallas anti-gas drilling activist Raymond Crawford just copied us on a letter he's sending to state Sen. Royce West today, asking him to "personally get involved [and] do whatever it takes to help stop HB3105," which is Rep. Jim Keffer's proposed legislation that would essentially neuter cities' ability to regulate oil and gas drilling. Keffer's chair of the House Committee on Energy Resources, and the legislation has some locals panicked -- not only gas activists like Crawford, but Flower Mound Mayor Melissa Northern, who said last week that "if this bill passes, all the work that our Oil and Gas Advisory Board has done during the last nine months will have been for naught because it would remove our authority over oil and gas drilling."

The committee's report was sent to the calendars committee last night, where it'll stay till the committee decides to put it on the House floor. And if there's one bit of good news for those concerned about the bill, it's that most House bills not already on the jam-packed to-do list don't have much of a chance of slipping through at this late date.

Which does little to console Crawford, who says committee member Stefani Carter -- the freshman Republican from Dallas who received close to $60,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry -- has been "shepherding this bill in committee and is determined to see that it becomes law."

Says Crawford, till now, at least, HB 3105 has been "on the fast track, and a lot of it -- like the thumper trucks we spotted earlier this week -- is doing under the radar. It's pretty scary. All the work we've accomplished in Dallas would be tossed away. They can do what they want, where they want, when they want as far as gas drilling goes."

His letter to West follows.
The Honorable Royce West
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
Senator West:

I am writing to express our opposition to House Bill 3105. The bill would make a city regulation that damages, destroys, impairs, or prohibits development of a mineral interest subject to the Private Real Property Rights Preservation Act (Act).

The question must be asked: Do you want gas wells next to the local school playground where your children play, or perhaps in your backyard? The passage of HB3105 could result in exactly that. If a city ordinance prohibits the drilling of an oil or gas well within a certain distance of a home or school, a landowner could bring a claim under the bill. The city would then have three choices: (1) pay the landowner for the money he thinks he could have made from the well; (2) waive the regulation and allow a gas well in the playground of a school or in your backyard; or (3) pay attorneys to litigate the claim. This type of law is commonly known as a "pay or waive" law.

That means that oil and gas wells will be permitted essentially anywhere in Dallas. That is bad public policy because people move to cities with the expectation that their property will be protected for the good of their property values. This bill would obliterate the protections that homeowners sought when they moved to a city.

I represent one of many public interest groups located here in Dallas and over the past 10 months, these groups have continued to educate Dallas citizens to the dangers of shale gas drilling. As a result, Dallas residents are a lot smarter about this issue than ever before. Recently, the Dallas city council agreed to the creation of gas drilling task force in order to rewrite our current ordinance that is very weak and ineffective.

At this point, the city now knows better and is beginning the task of doing better. This is because we were on the front lines of bringing this issue to the forefront. It may interest you that the property behind your Oak Cliff office has been mentioned as a possible location for shale gas drilling. Gas drilling has also been a hot topic with our current city elections and will help decide one city council position. It is that important to all Dallas residents and to your constituents in particular.

I am asking that you personally get involved with this matter and do whatever it takes to help stop HB3105. Speaking for the other Dallas groups, we will be behind you in this fight if you are willing to lead it. The time is now for our voices to be heard in Austin and many in Dallas are looking for your leadership. Because, at the end of the day, we all drink the same water and we all breathe the same air.

We look forward to hearing from you and working with you to help kill HB3105.

Sincerely,

Raymond Crawford
Dallas Area Residents for Responsible Drilling

My Voice Nation Help
19 comments
Edgar
Edgar

Somebody spell this out for me...if there's an ordinance that prohibits development of my mineral interest - an interest I bought (perhaps well before the playground or whatever was built) - that real property right would be stripped away from me. This bill would protect my right to be compensated for that taking of my property. Why is that a bad idea?

I look forward to answers other than "DICK CHENEY...GEORGE BUSH...EARTHQUAKES...Glenn Beck...We all drink the same water and breathe the same air...Fox News..."

Marc
Marc

I'll answer your question. Your rights end at my face! There are no such things as absolute rights.

You cannot yell "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater when there is no fire. You cannot claim that somebody harmed you to get them into trouble with the law when no harm was really done to you. And, regardless of your mineral rights you have ZERO right to produce those minerals if doing so pollutes the water, air or soil, causes human, animal or plant illness or death, or does irreparable harm to the environment. But, you DO have the right to sell that encumbered property that you cannot develop and move to somewhere without such encumberance.

Edgar
Edgar

Zero right to produce my minerals if doing so might cause plant illness? If that's the way the TX Supreme Court has come down on the issue, point me to the case...I wasn't aware of that.

Edgar
Edgar

That didn't answer my question at all. I want the case that says I can't drill if drilling would cause plant illness. I can take an axe to a tree in my backyard if I want to, but I can't drill if doing so would hurt my cute little veggie collection?

Marc
Marc

Federal and state courts have long upheld the doctorine that one cannot do something for his own benefit that causes a great harm to society in general, and that includes polluting the earth, its air and water. Our own city development code specifically limits or bars activities that are incongruent with the best interest of the neighborhood.If you will bother reading the City Development Code, then you will see that it stipulates that industrial activities, which is what gas production is, are not permitted if they are injurious to the quality of life in the neighborhood, cause harm to people or property or otherwise deprive people of their rights to enjoy their own property without being harmed.If you doubt what I am saying, then file a permit application to drill a well in your backyard and go before the City Plan Commission for a hearing. After that, you will understand, but I doubt that you will like it.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Edgar

You would not be protected, they would. It's written so that the language appears one way but actually it's the opposite. All of this is courtesy of Dick, W, Rick.

Edgar
Edgar

Why would I not be protected? If I wanted to lease my mineral rights or drill my own well, the city could keep its ordinance preventing me from doing so provided they compensate me for the value of the minerals their ordinance prevents me from producing. How does that not protect me? And who are "they"?

Ien Black
Ien Black

unbelievable. I wrote a letter to my rep for the first time, not that it will do any good.

Marc
Marc

Those of us who are actively fighting to prevent natural gas drilling inside Dallas City Limits are proof that your voice can and will be heard if YOU make it so! When we began this fight we had little hope or faith that our voices would be heard, but we organized like-minded citizens, educated ourselves, prepared presentations, attended City Plan Commission and City Council meetings where we spoke in opposition to drilling, and we backed up our position with hard empirical, scientific and medical facts.

First, we won a delay on XTO's (ExxonMobil subsidiary) permit request for Hensley Field when the City Plan Commission voted down the application and sent it to the City Council. Then, we got over half of the Plan Commissioners to recuse themselves from further voting on gas drilling measures due to their own conflicts of interest through stock ownership in ExxonMobil and other energy companies. Next, we got the City Council to delay voting on the appeal of the first XTO permit application until more information on the health and safety issues could be gathered, analyzed and considered. Then, we got the CPC and Council to agree not to consider any other drilling permits until this first matter was resolved.

Now, we have won the creation of a task force to carefully study the issue and consider all the ramifications before voting on approval of ANY permits in Dallas, and at the same time we have secured an agreement to re-write the terribly worded gas drilling ordnance that was hastily crafted over three years ago before the true dangers and hazards were publicly known.

Were it not for our activist participation and the voicing of our concerns in private discussions and public meetings these matters would have sailed through the CPC and Council with a rubberstamped approval. Your voice, alone and unsupported, may not carry much weight, but it will carry some. If, however, you can get others who share your concerns to vocalize those concerns as we did, then yes, your voice will be heard and it will be considered. You may even find that it makes all the difference. But, if you sit on the sidelines and wait for somebody else to carry the water for you, then you might find yourself dying of thirst.

Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way, but DO SOMETHING!

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Ian

You would be surprised what happens when you remind them you keeps them in office.

Help spread the word and ask others to do the same.

Thanks

Raymond

Marc
Marc

REPUBLICAN LIES!

The GOP always runs around telling everybody who will listen that they abhor "Big Government", and that it is the policy of the GOP to protect local decision-making on issues that affect citizens locally. Of course, we know that is a lie because every time we turn around they are fathering another bill to limit our freedoms and rights that are guaranteed under the Constitution, whether it is telling a woman what she can or cannot do with her body, telling us whom we can or cannot marry, trying to give tax dollars to private and religious schools at the expense of public education, giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and mega-corporations while taxing the Middle Class to death, and all sorts of issues like education and public safety that should be decided locally.The GOP wants us to believe that states should have authority over the federal government in isues that are state issues, and that local government should have authority over state governemnt when it comes to issues that directly affect us at the local level. All that is a pack of Republican lies!HB 3105 is all the proof that any intelligent person should need to see the truth and know that the GOP is nothing but liars who use deception and emotion to promote a Fascist agenda for America. Seeing the mistakes made by Fort Worth, Arlington, Grand Priarie, Cleburne and other cities throughoput the Barnett Shale, as well as cities across 34 states where natural gas well drilling is occurring, some of us in Dallas have bothered to educate ourselves to the facts about the dangers of urban drilling, and have worked tirelessly to educate our City Council and City Plan Commission, as well as our neighbors, as to why we should not allow drilling inside the Dallas City Limits.HB 3105 would strip that authority from the City of Dallas, and other municipalities and give it to an un-elected state agency that is comprised of gas industy executives who rubberstamp every permit request and turn a blind eye to spills, leaks, vapor emissions, explosions, hazardous industrial processes that adversely affect human health and safety, and every other bad thing this oil and gas industry does to make a profit at the expense of the people of the state and its cities.Yet, the GOP leaders in the Texas House and Senate are pushing for passage of HB 3105 knowing full well that it violates the very tenets they claim to believe in and preach to us about when trying to win votes by opposing "Big Government."To be sure, HB 3105 is the quintessential example of "Big Government" at its very worst. We need to stridently oppose HB 3105, and we all need to make our elected leaders in Austin know that we will oppose them with a vigor they have never seen if they continue pushing this piece of crap legislation on us.We WANT self-determination! The citizens of Dallas deserve the right to choose whether or not we will allow gas well drilling in our city and in our neighborhoods. We will NOT tolerate elected officials who are owned and controlled by the oil and gas industry selling our health and safety out to the drillers so that they can get campaign contributions.Fascism is a form of government where big corporations and wealthy individuals control a government that passes laws to benefit those corporations and individuals at the exclusuion of the best public interest. HB 3105 is the perfect example of Fascism trying to take away authority and control from local citizens and give it to a rubberstamp state agency that serves to benefit the industry it regulates to the exclusion of the citizens, and it must be stopped NOW!

Anonymous
Anonymous

I am glad that you have correctly identified our government as fascism, but you are giving democrats way too much credit. I get sick of hearing people talk about socialism as if our country is in danger of sliding into that territory. We aren't. Even raising the tax rate isn't socialism. It's changing a policy within our current structure of government. As for the move into fascism, as the two parties becomes more and more similar in their quest for campaign dollars, it is increasingly clear that neither really cares about anything other than lining their pockets. Democrats would claim to want to redistribute wealth to lower classes for mostly altruistic reasons, but ask how many pockets get lined along the way.

Marc
Marc

You will get no argument from me on that matter, but Democrats are definitely NOT moving toward Fascism. Democrats are patently socialist. Now, a LITTLE socialism is a good thing. England, Canada, Australia and many other countries have varying degrees of socialism that takes care of their citizens far better than we do here. But, if that pendulum swings TOO far to the left, then it is as bad as Fascism, though in the exact opposite direction.

For the record, I agree that raising taxes is not socialist. It's how we pay for services that benefit us all, and it is a requirement of a free society. I seriously doubt that most of our city or county government can even spell "Fascism" or "Socialism", and I damned sure don't thing they have a clue about what those terms actually mean. I think that they think those are just nasty words you call somebody with whom you disagree. There are specific political definitions of "Fascism" and "Socialism", and when I use those terms I mean them in their classic definitions, not as some offensive name to call somebody.

claytonauger
claytonauger

A response from Rep. Carter?

Marc
Marc

I contact the office of Stefani Carter because she is the State Rep from my district, and I have received no response from her at all. I warned her office that some of us are looking into the facts regarding her campaign financing and how she is voting on matters that are a direct conflict of interest. I told her aide that, if we find a violation of federal and state ethics laws, then we are going to proceed with demands for a felony prosecution. I intend to be her worst nightmare!Last night, Brett Shipp nailed her sorry, fat ass to the wall in his report on HB 3105 and the lies she told about Rep. Lon Burnham of Fort Worth, as well as to her claim of not being familiar with Burnham's bill, HB 3792, which opposes HB 3105 and grants cities the exclusive right to regulate and decide upon whether or not gas drilling occurs in their jusrisdiction.When a Republican tells you that he or she believes in smaller government and home rule you will know that he or she is lying when you see their lips move. HB 3105 is the exact opposite of small government and home rule. It is Big Government intervention in local matters to the Nth degree. HB 3792 is the prime example of granting local control over matters that affect us locally, and this bill should move forward. Stefani Carter voted against moving it out of committee to the full House for consideration, and then claims that she has not read the bill and does not know what it says. I think that she is lying through her teeth. I think that Chief Oil and Gas (her largest campaign financier) told her to oppose the bill and support HB 3105 so that they could do an end around local control and gain state approval to drill gas wells in Dallas whether or not we who live here like it.

RS1963
RS1963

My guess is the reply would be "For no reasons related to my being involved with this bill did oil and gas companies give me - an unknown, previously un-elected candidate - $60,000."

What galls me is the gall that these people have. They no longer even attempt to hide the fact that they are bought and paid for by big business. Any Republican voter should start to realize that all this grass-roots, Tea Party activism is BOUGHT AND PAID FOR by Big Business, solely to promote their interests.

Texaspainter
Texaspainter

If there were more like you, then we wouldn't be in this mess. The old days were if 60 Minutes showed up on your doorstep, you wouldn't answer. Today, it's hell yes I took that money, what are gonna do about it? Watch the 10 pm news tonight. Hopefully, theres more.

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