What the Frack: Task Force Isn't Done, But City Moves Closer to Issuing First Drilling Permit

NorthLakeSite.jpg
Click to enlarge this map from the city's April gas drilling ordinance presentation
XTO and Trinity East, two of the companies that have paid the city big money and signed leases to drill for gas within the city limits, have agreed to wait 30 months while the city rewrites its gas drilling ordinance. But one company has no such deal with the city: Chief Oil & Gas, which, we discovered at yesterday's meeting of the gas drilling task force, is moving ahead with its longstanding plans to drill on a site owned by Luminant at North Lake, near Coppell but within the Dallas city limits. "Luminant is providing the minerals and the land. Chief is providing the know-how and the drilling," said Dallas Cothrum of Masterplan, the land-use consulting company representing Chief.

In order to drill, companies must obtain site-specific zoning permission from city council -- a specific use permit (SUP) -- as well as a city permit, which is issued according to technical standards, providing that the company submits materials demonstrating that they are in accordance with the city's current drilling ordinance. Meanwhile, the Dallas drilling task force is crafting updated ordinance recommendations, which they will vote on next month before submitting to the city council.

But before it began revising its drilling ordinance, the city approved five SUPs for drilling sites, and Chief is the only one currently moving forward in the permitting process, as documented in the letter below from Masterplan, which ends with the line, "Finally, I cannot remember an occurrence when it took the city so long to issue a permit for an allowed use."

Theresa O'Donnell, the city's director of Sustainable Development and Construction, said her office has requested additional information from Chief. And if the company complies with the current ordinance, she said, the city must grant a permit allowing fracking on the site. Currently, she said during her zoning presentation to the drilling task force yesterday, the application is "substantially complete."

If a permit is issued, there is legally nothing stopping Chief from drilling on the site. "We're perfecting our package and plan to resubmit this week," said Cothrum. Depending on a variety of factors, drilling could begin before the end of the year -- which is what Chief said last year, following the resolution of a host of other controversies involving the property.

"We want to see if there's gas there," Cothrum said. "We wouldn't have gone through the process if we weren't serious about finding out if there's gas at North Lake."

The North Lake location is relatively secluded from residential neighborhoods, O'Donnell told the task force. "We could see the activity," she said, and "watch the process without having any immediately adjacent neighbors that are affected by it."

Potential fracking sites for which the city has granted SUPs will be held to the city's current ordinance rather than being forced to comply with the revisions currently under consideration. "They'd be perfectly within their rights to say no [to complying with a revised ordinance], but we could ask," O'Donnell said, addressing this issue yesterday during her zoning and permitting presentation to the drilling task force. She told Unfair Park that, generally, "You get to play by the set of rules that are in place at the time of your application."

O'Donnell made it clear that Dallas does not have a moratorium on fracking, but reiterated that until now, gas drilling companies that have paid the city millions for leases have voluntarily stalled their applications.

"We've asked them to hold off," she said. "They're just voluntarily keeping their application suspended."

But with Chief's pursuance of a drilling permit, the promise is disintegrating. She told the task force that companies holding those leases "could come in and submit all their documentation for a permit this afternoon if they would like." In other words: Dallas could be fracked.North Lake Permit


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13 comments
ZoeyDiva
ZoeyDiva

Dallas is going frackwards in its decisions. The new statistics show that 75% of fracked wells are gone/dry within 1 year. This week all 17 members of the Philadelphia City Council just unanimously voted to sue the Delaware River Basin Commission, and the Attorney General of New York has already filed a lawsuite against DRBC - all to prevent the drilling of 20,000+ wells from occurring at the water source for 15.6 million people until a thorough environmental, health, and economic impact study is done. Dallas leaders need to see the truth about this and realize the only ones making the money will never have to breathe the air or drink the water they destroy...

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

I hope that whoever reads this calls their friends in Valley Ranch to tell them of the big news.Poisonous emissions getting ready to blow into their neighborhoods and swimming pools.Those who care can email the mayor: mike.rawlings@dallascityhall.com and you can also email the city manager: mary.suhm@dallascityhall.com

Marc
Marc

I, for one, am sick of the lies, machinations and pretenses of those elected and appointed to lead Dallas. We were falsely mislead by the original plans for the Gas Drilling Task Force. We eventually got a dog-and-pony show that has no teeth and no credibility, and now we find out that the City of Dallas may be on the verge of allowing gas drilling even while we await the task force completing its work and the City Council taking up the matter of re-writing our gas drilling ordinance.

For just once, I wish that people who lead our city had the integrity and the decency to be truthful with us. Chief should NOT be allowed to drill that site unless and until it can be proven that drilling can safely be done in an urban, densely populated area. Until drillers become honest and transparent in their proceedings this activity should not be allowed in our city!

North Lake Fourty
North Lake Fourty

The North Lake site's history is worthy of a closer look by The Observer.

Originally a city-owned DP&L power plant site, it passed to Luminant through the privatization of the city-owned utility. 

DP&L/Luminent allowed the undeveloped land around the lake to be used as a nature preserve and park for many years -- until 9/11 -- when public access was abruptly cut off due to bogus "homeland security concerns."

Although the City of Irving had previously expressed interest in acquiring the land and developing it into a regional park Luminent instead sold it to The Billingsley Company which announced plans to fill the property with apartments and/or 2-3 story condos.

Bedlam ensued with the Coppell ISD and City of Coppell filing suit to prevent the developer from overloading the school district, imminent domain proceedings for school sites were fought by the developer in court until a truce between all parties was reached which included an agreement to mirror the single-family development on that portion of the property which bordered Valley Ranch lest the City of Irving also oppose the project in court.

For many months Lucy Billingsley & Co. have been grazing cattle on the property to legally avoid real estate taxes via the millionaire developers' agricultural exemption loophole and the development flap was largely forgotten.

Now Luminant -  which retained the mineral rights once owned by the City of Dallas (a story in itself should you wish to pursue it) - has tossed another grenade onto the table by partnering with a driller who proposes several drilling sites on land directly across from the single-family homes in Valley Ranch that were supposed to have been protected by the development deal.

To make matters more interesting, City of Irving is redrawing Council Boundaries to create a Valley Ranch council district -- which pretty much guarantees a tripwire that turns this into a development controversy -- again.

If you drive out to the site you'll find the two sites at the Southeastern end of the property are within view of / and directly across from:

1) Existing single family homes in SW Valley Ranch

2) Existing single family homes in North Las Colinas

3) Single-family homes under construction/contract in North Las Colinas

4) An existing developed City of Irving Park with children's play equipment....

5) ...which also sports a state historical marker indicating North Lake is formerly Grapevine Springs - site of an encampment by Sam Houston.  

Given that the State of Texas allowed the San Jacinto battlefield to be developed into refineries I doubt the historical significance of the site could permanently bar drilling, however potential opponents might be able to impede the process down by calling for a proper archeological survey prior to any land being disturbed.

This being PerryLand all but guarantees the drilling will eventually happen and that Luminant will profit from mineral rights the City of Dallas should have retained - but things could get interesting along the way should neighborhood opposition arise before the permit is granted.

Appalled
Appalled

Why don't you go door knocking on the residents at Valley Ranch and ask them how they feel about having a gas pad site next door to them. This should be really interesting since the land around the site was annexed by Dallas but sits in the middle of Irving, Coppell.

Holly
Holly

Doubt that Suhm or Rawlings give a flip about Irving or Coppell residents. 

Edgar
Edgar

Grrrr.  Machinations make me ang-wee too.

Valley Rancher
Valley Rancher

Isn't there also a Montessori School right by that park on the SE corner of the property? -What a mess!

Lady of the lake
Lady of the lake

"City of Irving is redrawing Council Boundaries to create a Valley Ranch council district -- which pretty much guarantees a tripwire that turns this into a development controversy " -- likely explains why driller is trying to ram this through ... BEFORE a Valley Ranch Council Person is elected (who could prod City of Irving to oppose this).

Even though City of Dallas will decide this, they'll need to contract w/Irving or Coppell for Police and Fire before they see any  property taxes from Billingsley Apts & Condos. Otherwise Dallas will have to build and operate expensive Fire & Police substation well outside regular Dallas City Limits

Susanne
Susanne

Dallas needs to use its power as a Home Rule city and put in place a Moratorium. Immediately.

Susanne
Susanne

These are the games they play.  While the citizens are "over here" working honestly and above board...this industry is working behind the scenes "over there," getting it done.  It's all part of the sick strategy of this industry and the city managers who choose to accept their checks without caring about the consequences.  This industry rewards those who help them. So, it's a win-win for North Texas City Managers.

Fred
Fred

Only if city gov't of Irving or Coppell are involved will this register on the radar at Dallas City Hall.

Those Valley Ranch/Coppell people contact their own council people if they want anything done.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

They don't care. Collateral damage. Just a few rich kids to them.

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