Amidst Activist Outbursts, Task Force Finalizes Its Suggestions for Gas Drilling in City Limits

JimSchermbeck.jpg
Via.
Jim Schermbeck, who didn't get to see all of yesterday's gas drilling task force meeting
A few major issues, including set-back distances from drill sites and whether to protect parks from fracking, have plagued the Dallas gas drilling task force for months ... and months. (Keep in mind: Yesterday's final meeting was more than three months past the scheduled end date.) At meeting after meeting after meeting, the group debated and decided on most issues, but set aside yesterday to revisit the topics at which they wanted to take another stab.

They essentially rewound what they had done, took into account the maps from the city of locations currently zoned for drilling and information that's been filling their in-boxes from industry and citizen activists, and came to new conclusions based on the materials and the benefit of hindsight.

Drilling on park land, a source of ongoing debate, came to a head. It had to, considering it was the last chance for task force discussion and vote. As detailed in letters to the task force by industry representative Dallas Cothrum, protecting park land -- along with other task force recommendations -- would make it impossible to drill on sites already negotiated by the city.

The task force had previously voted to include parks as a protected use, guarded by a 1,000-foot set-back. Park land encompasses much more land than parks as we know them, said David Biegler, task force member and Southcross Energy chairman and CEO. With that, he urged that the group allow the Park and Recreation Department and city council to decide on the issue on a case-by-case basis with strict guidelines.

Park Board president and task force member, Joan Walne, mostly agreed with Biegler. "Just so I'm perfectly clear; I've never advocated for drilling on park land," she said, indirectly responding to criticisms from citizen activists saying she was not doing enough as board president to protect the parks. "What I do advocate is a governance issue ... and I think the council should be given the opportunity to evaluate with stringent guidelines and in only instances that seem appropriate."

A few task force members worried this would leave too much latitude in the decision-making process, but others continued looking to Walne, who said she believed council and the Park Board could handle the issue as long as it was restricted from commonly used parks, environmentally sensitive areas and if part of the revenue went back to the city's Park and Recreation Department department for mitigation and improvement.

"Mic check," someone in the audience interrupted. Activists looked around, clearly enthused.

An older man and a younger woman stood solemnly and began reading a script: "The Dallas gas drilling task force has complied with industry desires and ignores the voices of the people. ... Polluting water and air fills corporate coffers and poisons people in the name of greed."

Task force chair Lois Finkelman called upon security to escort them out. The task force then filed out of the room, appearing to protest the protesters.

"I'm fragile," the older man said as security guards held onto him under the armpits and whisked him from the room. Asked his name as he walked to the elevator, he said, "George Nolan's the name; 71's the game." Referring, of course, to his age.

Moments after he left, the task force voted to allow drilling in public parks if strict conditions are met and council approves the location. A city lawyer added that by virtue of being park land, the location must go through an additional city hearing to be used for drilling or other purposes; the process itself is cumbersome and somewhat prohibitive.

Jim Schermbeck of Downwinders at Risk loudly objected from the crowd, yelling that the task force had changed their minds to be less protective. Finkelman again summoned security, then told them to act quickly. "Democracy is going to speak sooner or later, Lois," Schermbeck yelled as he was politely and firmly shoved towards the door.

If this is what it's like now, imagine what it will be like when these recommendations come before council. Bring popcorn.

After the second interruption was quelled, the task force immediately returned to discussion. Set-backs were up next. Biegler began the conversation raising his concerns including that by having set-backs from the pad site to the property line of a protected use, the set-back distance to the actual protected use could be potentially enormous, depending on the size of the property.

Terry Welch, a lawyer for several North Texas cities, agreed that the set-backs aren't scientifically calculated, but disagreed that they should be measured in a way that makes them less restrictive. "There is no magic line, and I think we all agree on that. Reasonable minds can disagree," he said. "Err on the side of protecting residences ... and if history shows us in the next couple years that we overshot this mark, let's go ahead and change it [then]."

As they had decided previously, the group did vote in favor of measuring set-back distances from the edge of the pad site to the site of the protected use. Then they voted to measure the distance to schools and other zoning categories using the property line instead of the building site, complicating the matter with different rules within similar zoning categories. Finkelman said it best: "Somehow I think we've just made sausage, but it remains to be seen."

Now, the whole package of recommendations will be organized by city staff and sent to council. That will likely be followed by a briefing, after which the recommendations will move to the council yea-ing and nay-ing the task force's decisions.

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LDR4
LDR4

"If this is what it's like now, imagine what it will be like when these recommendations come before council. Bring popcorn."

I am going to tailgate these meetings. They are going to be epic! You know someone is going to propose drilling in a South Dallas park to 'spur' economic development. Let the ish fly!

Gangy
Gangy

The big story is the millions of gallons of our water used in the drilling that will be unfit for any human use afterwards for ETERNITY.  That is only exacerbated by the concentration of drilling sites in the Trinity River floodplain, which could easily lead to the poisoning forever of the water source that supplies 50% of the people in Texas.

John2247
John2247

THANK YOU!  In addition to the potential destruction of water sources there is the guaranteed use of water in the process.  Water that is not metered, and never mentioned in reporting by the major media.

If flames shoot out of a water hose it makes news, but the tremendous waste of clean water in a long-term drought is not considered.    

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Not so fast to the chambers LDR4......  They will look out from the horse shoe see the hubbub and Table it for a few weeks hoping those who are on the edges lose interest So they are left to deal with Raymond and a few others who oppose it .

Marc McCord
Marc McCord

Actually, they will be opposed by a great number of people, and our number is growing by the day. Over the last two years we have awakened a large number of people, and we continue educating the citizens so that others will join our ranks. If the city leaders think they have heard from us in the past, then they ain't heard nothing yet! But, they are going to hear a lot in the very near future.

Nobody sized it up better that T. Boone Pickens, who stated, "Nobody will ever make any money drilling for oil and gas in Dallas."

Paul
Paul

I hope that everyone realizes that if Queen Mary had not leased the City owned lands, we would not be discussing the requirements for drilling in city owned property (i.e., parks) today.

We would however still be discussing what requirements private mineral owners (i.e., Lessors) and private oil and gas development companies (i.e., Lessees) would have to meet in order to develop the mineral estate which lays within City boundaries.  Oil and gas drilling is considered an industrial activity under the City's zoning ordinances.  Therefore to conduct an industrial activity in an area not zoned for industrial activity would require an SUP.  The situation is such that the City would need to adopt a uniform process for granting or denying an SUP for oil and gas drilling in a nonconforming location.

Does that clear things up?

Ben
Ben

Since the battlefield seems to be shaping up over LB Houston and those dozen or so potential pad sites, I wonder if the city would really dare let anyone drill there. I mean, instead of five people yelling at a meeting, you would have five hundred. President Bush rides his mountain bike there. Tom Leppert broke his collar bone mountain biking there. I have seen Dallas Stars, Cowboys and Rangers using the trails there too.

Gangy
Gangy

We need the five-hundred there, now!  Everyone in Dallas who wants to count on there being sufficient water for human, animal, and plant use in the future needs to do one or more of the following:  call their Council members, write their Council members, attend Council meetings, speak at Council meetings, educate their friends and family, visit their Council members, . . . 30 citizens working against fracking wells in the Dallas City Limits is not sufficient to fight the money, experience, and greed of the industry folks.  They are very intimidating to Council members.  We must have LARGE numbers of citizens opposing this to turn the balance to the health and welfare of all of our residents.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

I doubt the council is intimidated .For some of them  The industry folks are their friends Or at least the circle they run in ..

.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

 whatever Mary wants, she usually gets.

Formula One
Formula One

That's what Kris Sweckard was put there to do---make sure the Queen Mary's plan was protected. Otherwise, she would be another $50 million in the hole to pay back the money for the gas leases that her other FOM flunky (Mark Duebner) negotiated for the city years ago to balance the budget. Now these two fools are running the Dallas Public Library system and Love Field. God help us!

Marc McCord
Marc McCord

There is no way the city would EVER have to pay back the money for the gas leases. We leased the land and we got the money. That is all we were required to do. Gas drilling was always a separate matter that required an SUP and a gas drilling permit. The SUP and drilling permit are completely separate from the land lease.

Let's say you lease an apartment or house, and it comes with restrictions on what you can and cannot do there, or what steps you have to take before doing something that is not normally allowed. Say, for instance, you want to move a family of gypsies in with you, but the lease states that you first have to get permission and have them approved by the landlord. If the landlord decides against you and denies permission to move those gypsies in with you, then you cannot sue and get your money back because your money was for YOUR lease, not for your unauthorized activity.

Or, say you want to make physical modifications to the property that you are leasing, but your lease agreement stipulated that no modifications can be made without specific approval and permission. Being denied permission would not be grounds for getting your money back.

The gas companies leased land. The leases came with stipulations that gas drilling requires an SUP approved by the Dallas City Plan Commission and then by the Dallas City Council. If the SUP is granted, then the lease requires a drilling permit from the City Council. Only when those two conditions are met will the lessee be allowed to drill. The money the city received from XTO and Trinity East was for land leases, not SUPs or drilling permits.

We have talked about this stuff ad infinitum, but some people still don't get it. The city is not liable for the money it received if it fails to approve drilling on the property. If such a case were to be filed, then it would be thrown out of court because it has no legal basis.

Guest
Guest

I look forward to the day when the next Tom Leppert decides it's a good idea to drill in the deck park.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

I guess I am amused that real grownups thought this process would be anything but a rubber stamp for what industry wished to happen.

You had your task force are you happy now ?

Marc McCord
Marc McCord

We did NOT have OUR task force. We got Ron Natinsky's and Dave Neumann's task force. Those are wholly different task forces. The one we wanted would have been an objective task force that examined the science, the facts and waited for the EPA report to be issued before making any recommendations. The one we got was a rubber stamp for the gas drilling industry. It was one that was not concerned with protecting citizens' health and safety, property values, water, air, soil, parks, streets and highways or quality of life.

We are NOT happy with the task force we got, but we would have been happy with the one we wanted, which would have had objectivity as its foundation. Citizens are the important ones. Elected and appointed officials are merely janitors, but they sometimes forget who are their bosses. It is our duty as citizens to remind them of that fact in the next election.

claytonauger
claytonauger

Sad way for Ms. Finkelman to end her civic career. May she live long enough to regret her role in this fiasco. 

Marc McCord
Marc McCord

Lois was an abject failure and a pitiful excuse to lead the task force, but that was why she was chosen by Ron Natinsky and Dave Neumann in the first place. She lacked the integrity and the will to protect citizen interests and caved to industry at every turn. Her legacy will forever be that she was the captain of a sinking ship of fools on the task force. The only one to whom I would throw a lifelife would be Terry Welch, who actually tried to inject common sense into a nonsensical exercise in futility.

TXsharon
TXsharon

I wish Ms. Finkelman and the other task force members could see the recent emails I have received from Tea Party members in Arlington. They were once rabid "Drill, Baby, drill" advocates. Now they talk about how they were misguided and lied to and how to organize and elect new leaders at the local and state levels.

Some people are incapable of learning from the mistakes of others. They insist on touching the red-hot stove to see for themselves. When you are dealing with extreme energy extraction methods in neighborhoods, waiting until you experience it directly is way too late. By that time you have been exposed and you won't be able to sell your house and move. It's too late and you are stuck for decades.

You've just crossed over into the "Drilling Zone."

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