There's Another Gas Drilling Public Hearing Tomorrow. So Where Is City Heading, Anyway?

Categories: The Environment

drilling.jpg
Photo by Taryn Walker
Drill, maybe, drill.
As chair of the city's gas drilling task force, Lois Finkelman has a pretty tough job, directing task force meetings, guiding discussions, fielding calls and emails from concerned citizens. (Did we mentioned she doesn't get paid? Strictly voluntary.). And with a public hearing coming up tomorrow, the task force's deliberation process about to begin and a request earlier this week for further council briefings on the issue, it's not about to get any easier, Mayor Mike Rawlings ought to give the former council member a key to the city. Or, at least, free Pizza Hut for life. Something.

Anyway. On Monday, with the final public hearing looming, Finkelman briefed the council's Transportation and Environment Committee on the task force's progress, presenting a slide show overview of Barnett Shale drilling and the litany of concerns the group is addressing as it crafts recommendations for a new city ordinance.

Linda Koop, chair of the committee, thanked Finkelman for her dedication, acknowledging, "I know it's been lots of work." Finkelman began by saying that the task force's original mission, to make recommendations -- including zoning and permitting requirements while also taking into account air and water issues -- barely scratches the surface. She said that coming up with recommendations in the two remaining meetings after Thursday's upcoming public hearing is an "optimistic" goal, but that they have December as a safety net.

"Our goal is to be done by the end of the year," Finkelman said. "It's really hard to predict how easily the decision-making process will go."

While task force members have been relatively collegial, it's nearly time for opinions to be vocalized as recommendations begin taking shape. In her overview of the drilling process, Finkelman addressed the issue of injection wells, disposal sites for the "produced" water used in fracking. "Typically, in this area, [the frack water goes] into injection wells."

"If we don't allow injection wells in the city we have to truck it elsewhere," added Kris Sweckard, director of the Office of Environmental Quality.

With injection wells, Finkelman said, there is a list of concerns including whether they can lead to earthquakes, especially if drilled improperly. "There's not a lot of clear scientific data," she said, adding that there's contradictory data on just about every aspect of drilling -- which, of course, doesn't make the task force's job any easier.

Koop asked that they make arrangements for the entire city council to be briefed on the subject so they can better understand the issues faced by the task force, their methodology and have a framework in which to place their upcoming recommendations.

Sheffie Kadane had his own thoughts (or hopes) about the task force's methodology, "I think they're looking at it as: 'What do we need to do to get these wells drilled,'" he said. He sees the goal of the task force as finding ways to create "safe wells," he said, which he believes is a good goal to have. He added, "I'm glad to hear that your group ... is thinking about disposal wells."

Finkelman stopped to clarify that the task force's list of concerns is inclusive. The fact that disposal wells are a concern does not mean that they are leaning toward a recommendation to either allow or ban them. It's all still nebulous.

"You're gonna have trucks after trucks after trucks," Kadane said, referring to the fact that without disposal wells waste water must be transported elsewhere. "You're talking a lot of hauling."

A short while later, Kadane clarified what he said about injection wells. "I wasn't insinuating that you were hedging towards that," he said.

Council member Sandy Greyson asked Finkelman if the task force had discussed the economic impact of drilling, to which Finkelman responded with a version of what's become an oft-repeated line: There is a "general feel that it's not part of our role to determine whether this is economically beneficial."

So, again: Tomorrow at 6 p.m. is the task force's final public hearing -- always a tough day of work as the group of volunteers holds court as the public's verbal punching bags. But tomorrow evening marks the home stretch in this process -- once citizens voice exactly how they feel (and then some, we're sure), the task force will, in the coming weeks of deliberation, reveal what they really think drilling in Dallas should look like. Game on.

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14 comments
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Brown Bess
Brown Bess

Yeah, I agree. I'd feel a lot better if the DO had someone who knew Dallas politics and had actually been through a grassroots fight or two writing abou this issue. This is the perspective of a novice who's never seen this movie before. 

Thelawwon
Thelawwon

Leslie presented both sides accurately and fairly.  I greatly prefer this over a writer who lets his or her biases slant all reporting.  

heart and soul
heart and soul

She only quotes the people that are pro-drilling. How is that fair?

heart and soul
heart and soul

Uh, Leslie, I think you better look into Finkleman's background before you praise her too much for her work. She was picked to head up this committee because she was expected to be friendly to the drilling.

Marks Powers
Marks Powers

Would be nice to see Dallas Observer write an article on this...  Geothermal energy financed by Google and conducted by SMU...http://wattsupwiththat.com/201...The Google funded Enhanced Geothermal Systems research at the Southern Methodist University has produced a coast-to-coast geothermal potential map of the United States. Having invested over $10 million on geothermal energy, Google seems to believe that it is our best bet at kicking the oil habit (especially now that nuclear power has suddenly become disproportionately unpopular).

Details and how to view it:DALLAS (SMU) – New research from SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory, funded by a grant from Google.org, documents significant geothermal resources across the United States capable of producing more than three million megawatts of green power – 10 times the installed capacity of coal power plants today.Sophisticated mapping produced from the research, viewable via Google Earth atwww.google.org/egs, demonstrates that vast reserves of this green, renewable source of power generated from the Earth’s heat are realistically accessible using current technology.The results of the new research, from SMU Hamilton Professor of Geophysics David Blackwell and Geothermal Lab Coordinator Maria Richards, confirm and refine locations for resources capable of supporting large-scale commercial geothermal energy production under a wide range of geologic conditions, including significant areas in the eastern two-thirds of the United States. The estimated amounts and locations of heat stored in the Earth’s crust included in this study are based on nearly 35,000 data sites – approximately twice the number used for Blackwell and Richards’ 2004 Geothermal Map of North America, leading to improved detail and contouring at a regional level.Based on the additional data, primarily drawn from oil and gas drilling, larger local variations can be seen in temperatures at depth, highlighting more detail for potential power sites than was previously evident in the eastern portion of the U.S.  For example, eastern West Virginia has been identified as part of a larger Appalachian trend of higher heat flow and temperature.Conventional U.S. geothermal production has been restricted largely to the western third of the country in geographically unique and tectonically active locations.  For instance, The Geysers Field north of San Francisco is home to more than a dozen large power plants that have been tapping naturally occurring steam reservoirs to produce electricity for more than 40 years.However, newer technologies and drilling methods can now be used to develop resources in a wider range of geologic conditions, allowing reliable production of clean energy at temperatures as low as 100˚C (212˚F) – and in regions not previously considered suitable for geothermal energy production. Preliminary data released from the SMU study in October 2010 revealed the existence of a geothermal resource under the state of West Virginia equivalent to the state’s existing (primarily coal-based) power supply.“Once again, SMU continues its pioneering work in demonstrating the tremendous potential of geothermal resources,” said Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association. “Both Google and the SMU researchers are fundamentally changing the way we look at how we can use the heat of the Earth to meet our energy needs, and by doing so are making significant contributions to enhancing our national security and environmental quality.”

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

We did write about it.

http://blogs.dallasobserver.co...

A year ago.

Marks Powers
Marks Powers

Great to see you covered it, time for an update...

Am growing weary of all the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) and CAVE (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) arguments that tend to dominate the media.

The United States is committing energy suicide.  All those US citizens advocating building nothing and stopping everything should set an example and quit using energy and find a cave somewhere to live in for a few weeks.   Then I could see they are really serious about the matter.  Unfortunately, all these NIMBYites and CAVEites seem to use just as much energy as the rest of us while preventing the USA from actually solving its energy problem.

Marks Powers
Marks Powers

You make several valid points and a reasoned argument.  And you are knowledgeable enough to state the increasingly obvious "I'm not fooled into thinking renewable energy is the future".  

Yes, energy conservation and making better products that reduce energy consumption would go a long way toward resolving our energy problems.  Unfortunately, conservation  alone will not and cannot solve the problem.  

First, the developing countries are developing and their energy consumption is increasing each year.  Second, the world still has increasing population growth.  Third, it takes more energy use to get oil/gas/coal out of the ground as most all of the low lying fruit has already been found and produced already.  We live in a global market place for energy.

Conservation and Technology to reduce energy consumption cannot keep up with demand, in my opinion.  We are going to have to build something whether it be coal, oil and gas, or nuclear as renewable technologies are at least 3 decades away.  (Note: the NIMBYites will not even allow a solar array project to be built in the Mojave desert because of the flat tailed horned lizard or for wind farms to be built in the mid-west because of property owners rights).

We have to build something, somewhere.

Anon
Anon

You don't have to live in a cave, but given that using less energy is cheaper, I don't know too many people who set out to increase their consumption.

The bigger issue is that every product we buy is designed with low or a least only slightly increased energy costs. So of course we will always 'need' more. Things like low power consuming cable boxes are possible and economically viable but the cable companies have rightly noted that energy is so cheap that their customers would just prefer not to have a couple second delay when turning on the set. Seriously. We are that lazy. Most people I know in office buildings are freezing all day but someone has decided better cold than hot. Maybe if we didn't artificially try to make energy cheaper (by allowing companies to produce it without paying the full costs) people would suck up the extra degree or two.

I'm not fooled into thinking renewable energy is the future. Less consumption is the preferable future. That's really the only way it adds up.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Re Kadane's comment; No, the task force is not trying to create a way for drilling to be done in Dallas. That is just his wishful thinking without a verbal filter. One wonders about his connections to the industry with his rush to get this going.

Those who are concerned about shale gas drilling in Dallas should attend the meeting tomorrow night at 6 pm. Time enough to get your mic on and then leave to go watch the big game.

A few things hat we don't currently have but need:

30000 foot set  back from homes, businesses, schools, hospitals24/7 Air monitoring with info available on the City of Dallas web site.A full time gas inspector that is NOT also working in another town.( They want to do this)Baseline testing of air, water, soil before any drilling.No drilling near bodies of water such as creeks, streams, lakes, rivers.Total 'green' practices. Chevron does it in Colorado. No one does it here.No compressor stations or compressor equipment in Dallas.Complete listing of all chemicals used in fracking.Transfer and production Pipeline maps. Show them on the City of Dallas web site.City water used in fracking must be used on city sites. No transfer of water across city limits.

For more info: www.dallasdrilling.wordpress.c...

See you tomorrow night at the mic.

Edgar
Edgar

Was there an extra zero, or are you really asking for a 30,000-foot setback?  With so few wells in Dallas, how can we justify exclusively employing a gas inspector full-time?  Without any compressor stations, how can the gas be economically delivered to market?  And, as for disclosure of chemicals, that request has already satisfied statewide.  The bill passed and was signed by Perry back in July.  Colorado doesn't even have that yet.

guest
guest

A quick correction re: the recently passed Texas law.  Disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process is left to the discretion of the driller.  Any company may refuse to disclose siting the chemical composition as proprietary information.  If a company chooses to disclose the chemical content of their fluid, there is no requirement that they supply a sample and no mechanism for testing the sample to verify their assertions. This law is toothless and basically meaningless.  

Edgar
Edgar

Correction to the "correction":  A company can claim trade secret, but that designation can be appealed, and regardless, they have to identify the components they claim as proprietary.

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