Absence of Two Plan Commissioners Could Tip the Balance in Favor of Fracking

Categories: City Hall

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It seemed a bit puzzling last week when Joe Alcantar, chair of the City Plan Commission, asked that the CPC reconsider Trinity East's request to drill in the Trinity River floodplain, which the body had just gotten through denying.

Perhaps Alcantar, who voted in favor of Trinity East's proposal, had swayed one of his fellow members, but that seemed unlikely. Fracking is like the abortion debate. People have already made up their minds. Maybe he was banking on yays from the two CPC members who had missed the initial vote, but even that would only bring the vote to a 7-7 tie. (The 15th seat on the CPC has been vacant since Bobby Abtahi stepped down to run for City Council).

It's seems now that Alcantar's request will pay off. Rudy Bush at the Morning News reported that two of the CPC's gas drilling opponents, Mike Anglin and Paul Ridley, are unable to attend tomorrow's meeting. So is Liz Wally, who also missed the first meeting.

Assuming everyone else votes as they did last time, that leaves the tiebreaker to John Shellene, who missed last meeting but plans to be there tomorrow. And he declined to say how he plans to vote.

"I'll be waiting to hear comments and what staff has to say," he told Unfair Park this afternoon.

That's assuming there is a vote, which is where things get complicated. According to Robert's Rules of Order, which governs city meetings, a motion to reconsider has to be made by a member of the majority, in this case gas drilling opponents. As CPC chair, Alcantar is free to put the matter on the agenda but a member of the majority will need to actually make the motion once the meeting starts. Only if that motion passes will the body consider whether to approve Trinity East's SUP.

Even if that happens, there are other procedural questions. Terry Welch, an attorney and anti-fracking member of the city's gas drilling task force, wrote a letter to the CPC. In it, he argues that, even if the motion to reconsider passes, a vote on the SUPs themselves will have to be delayed until the next meeting, when Anglin and Ridley would presumably be back.

This will all ultimately be sorted out by the City Council. The reason the CPC's decision is important is that a recommended denial means the measure will need a 3/4 vote by the council, rather than a simple majority. It's at least possible that there are eight pro-drilling votes on the council. There certainly aren't a dozen.

Update at 4:43 p.m.: Council members Angela Hunt, Scott Griggs, and Sandy Greyson have sent a letter to Alcantar urging him not to push for a reconsideration of Trinity East's SUPs, arguing that the matter has been clearly settled and that part of the rationale for the move -- that two commissioners were absent -- should apply doubly now as it appears three won't make tomorrow's meeting.

If Alcantar feels otherwise and decides to continue to push for reconsideration, they ask that the public be allowed to comment, which, as of now, isn't on the agenda.

Their full letter:

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In spite of my opposition to the drilling I have to admire the skillful use of the rules ( That may or may not exist )  that are being used by the other side to not only get its way in revoking the vote in the past but also by invoking  rules to its own advantage completely shut out any opposition that might be voiced..

As the MEME Caption would read Well Played Drilling Company Well played .


Thanks to the Council members for writing this letter. The depth and breath of what now can officially be called a scandal is breathtaking even for Dallas. Secret deals. "Do-over" votes. No public participation. A huge new gas refinery never discussed before is hidden inside a "Drilling permit" only a few weeks before it was submitted late last year, and no one at City Hall knows about it or will admit knowing about it. What would be Dallas' 10th largest polluter the day it opened could be approved on Thursday with less scrutiny than the latest over-sized business sign.


Joe Alcantar is a liar without integrity. Hopefully, he will read and carefully consider Terry Welch's articulate letter which stipulates the various city ordinances and state laws that must prevail in the process of any further action on this matter by the CPC.

Alcantar has an agenda, as does his boss Mayor Mike Rawlings, to promote gas drilling in Dallas. Rawlings stands to personally profit from his investments in oil and gas operations, so he is naturally biased toward allowing it to go forward. But, the fact remains that drilling on city-owned park land and in floodplains is clearly illegal under existing ordinances and laws, so any vote to approve an SUP is a vote to allow an activity that is already prohibited by law, and such a vote would, in and of itself, be illegal.

What Dallas needs is an FBI investigation into how city government works in direct contravention to federal, state and local laws and ordinances. The FBI needs to investigate all votes cast by CPC members on the XTO lease at Hensley Field when they owned ExxonMobil stock, and if any owned stock in Trinity East, its owner Keystone Energy or any related company when they voted on Trinity East leases, then that also needs to be investigated as a direct conflict of interest, which is a violation of US and state ethics laws and the ethics code of the City of Dallas.

This issue is NOT going away, and those who attempt to circumvent the legal process are going to be held accountable.

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