The Call for Tighter Fracking Regulations in Dallas Got a Little Louder Last Night
Councilman Scott Griggs kicked off last night's festival of shared discontent over the possibility of drilling in Dallas under the ordinance changes recommended by the drilling task force. Two city drilling task force members, a former member of the Fort Worth drilling task force, members of environmental advocacy groups and a room full of concerned community members gathered with a shared complaint and a common goal: They say the city's drilling task force's recommendations are not protective enough, and they want the ordinance to be more protective when city council votes.
Photo by Leslie Minora Councilman Scott Griggs tells the crowd to keep writing and talking with council if they want to see change.
"If there's one thing that's more important than natural gas, it's quality of life," Griggs told the crowd, gathered at the Center for Community Cooperation on Live Oak Street. He urged community members to show up at the open microphone portion of council meetings and write to the council and the mayor. "It's not too late," he said. "This is the time for action."
Two task force members, Cherelle Blazer and Terry Welch, explained their gripes with some of the task force's final recommendations.
"I expected us to be light years ahead of where everyone else started. Unfortunately that's not the case," Blazer said.
"I came away from this process with three or four major concerns," Welch said. "There was a concerted effort to undo a lot of what was done." He's concerned that a two-thirds council vote can reduce setbacks to 500-feet and "absolutely appalled" that they voted to allow drilling in parks and floodplains.
The recommendation to allow driling in parks was "taylor-made for that L.B. Houston park," Blazer said, referencing a drilling site for which there is a pending zoning case. "Again, that happened on the last day right before we were about to wrap up," Blazer said. The task force process, she said, "became politicized early on -- moreso than expected."
The former task force members echoed Griggs' suggestion, which became the chorus throughout the night: write to city council, show up at meetings, stay involved.
Jim Schermbeck of Downwinders at Risk gave the crowd a primer on fracking that left the audience punctuating his presentation with quick gasps. He reminded people that fracking is an industrial operation that "sets off the equivalent of a bomb underground ... to release the gas." He stressed that toxic emissions are released as a result and fracking requires an immense amount of water.
He presented one nugget of consolation: This region does not get its water from wells, so no one will be able to light their faucet on fire like the now-famous scene from Gasland, the documentary about the perils of drilling. But, he said, this area gets water from surface sources, which are easily polluted by spills at fracking sites. Pigs' blood is "nothing compared to what these guys can put in the river with this activity," he said, referencing the news about the meat processing plant that released blood into the Trinity.
Jim Bradbury, a lawyer who served on the Fort Worth drilling task force, urged that Dallas learn from the mistakes of Fort Worth. "You may think you know where they're going to drill," he said, "you don't know."
He commended the time and effort the Dallas task force spent to compile "some great recommendations," but highlighted key protective issues: line compressors that run 24/7 and are a significant source of emissions (task force recommendations allow them on pad sites in Dallas); setbacks, which will be "entirely too close" if reduced to 500 feet by a two-thirds council vote as is allowed in the task force recommendations; and waste disposal, which can mean significant truck traffic or the presence of injection wells (currently not allowed by the recommendations).
Ed Meyer of the Mountain Creek Neighborhood Alliance and Zac Trahan of the Texas Campaign for the Enviornment presented their map of leases between the city and energy companies, which are dotted throughout the western portion of the city. These locations mark "where [companies] might ask for permission to drill in the city," Trahan said, adding that they might be the "tip of the iceberg." Trahan told the crowd he will organize weekly meetings on Tuesdays at the Texas Campaign for the Environment office in Oak Lawn.
With that, city council is expected to hear a briefing on the task force's recommendations next month, and from there, they will vote on the ordinance revisions -- likely with a great deal of encouragement and push-back from the community.