Trinity East, Staunch Defender of Truth and Above-Board Dealing, Threatens to Sue an Environmental Group

Categories: Schutze

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So Trinity East, the gas drilling company that did a secret deal with the Dallas city manager to drill on city-owned parkland, is threatening to sue an environmental group because the group demanded more transparency about previous drilling operations.

The drilling company has threatened to sue the Texas Campaign for the Environment for making "demonstrably false" statements about a 2008 drilling operation at the University of Dallas in which a ground-water protection system cracked up and failed. The environmental group said the cracking up of the groundwater protection system could have polluted the groundwater.

The environmentalists say the state agency in charge of checking to see if the groundwater got polluted never came up with anything to show they had even looked at it, nor did Trinity East. So they say maybe it did. Trinity East's argument seems to be that the environmentalists shouldn't be allowed to say it could have happened if nobody has ever provided proof that it did or did not happen.

Wow. Maybe we'd all better count this out, so we won't all wind up in court. If we play by the Trinity East's rules of free speech and fair debate, it was OK, then, for Trinity East to sign a secret deal five years ago with City Manager Mary Suhm, for gas drilling on parkland, then hint at its existence in a kind of too-cute threatening way in a Q&A interview with the Observer, but refuse to come clean on its existence, possibly because keeping it a secret would maintain their leverage over Suhm. Show a little, hide a lot. Got it.

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We're not saying that gray bulldog with the ace in its toes is representative of Trinity East -- gracious no -- but you can draw your own conclusions.
It was also OK for Trinity East to state in the same interview that current law allowed drilling on parkland, which was not true. Check.

It was perfectly within the rules of free speech for Trinity East representatives to tell a certain all-ears Observer columnist that the company might use its under-the-table deal with Suhm to sue the socks off the city if the company didn't get its way, so they better get their way. All right, got that, too.

But when the Texas Campaign for the Environment suggested Trinity East had not been forthcoming about possible damage to the water table from one of its drilling operations, that was just off the charts impermissible slanderous libelous defamatory illegal crazy-talk, and Trinity East was going to sue their socks off, too.

Uh. Not sure I do get it.

Here's my thinking. You wander into City Hall and you want something. Hey. What is City Hall? It's a big building that exists ... it is only there ... the only reason it was ever built, in fact, was so that we would have a place to debate public issues freely and openly. Can you be all fakey nudge-nudge wink-wink about secret deals that you're going to hint at but not quite fully disclose? Absolutely. This is America. We are proud of our right to be tricky in public.

But can you say stuff that's just not true, like current law allows drilling on parkland when current law does not allow drilling on parkland? Sure. Go for it. It's public debate. The public can take it. A little bit of deception goes with the territory.

In other words, in the game of City Hall poker, is it OK to deliberately let the guy across the table see your ace but hide the rest of your crap hand and then act all confident and like you're about to clean him out so you can bluff him out of raising the bet on you? Of course! Feel free! That's how we do it in the grand arena of free speech in this country.

But here's the thing, mate. If the people on the other side of the table point out that you had a groundwater protection system that crapped out on you, and they point out that neither you nor the state agency over this stuff has ever ponied up a definitive report on it, and they suggest that maybe possibly the groundwater got polluted because your system crapped out, that is within the same rules of public debate by which you have been playing all along. In fact it's probably a little closer within the rules than you yourself have been.

So the deal is this: You can't walk into City Hall, take advantage of the public nature of the debate to say all kinds of stuff you yourself might well have been sued for in an entirely private matter, and then threaten to destroy a citizen group because they exercise the same right of speech you yourself have been relying on from the beginning.

Sure, we know you're an oil and gas company, and you can put your hands on way more lawyer money than the little rag-tags in the environmental group. But you just can't go around doing whatever you want and then threaten to ruin the little people for the same thing.

Put it a simpler way. In the game of City Hall, there are four rules. 1) Everybody can play. 2) Keep your eyes peeled and your catcher's mask on. 3) It's OK to be partial ass-holes. 4) Not total.


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16 comments
director21
director21

Trinity East just keeps getting caught in the lies and cover-ups it initiated by its deceptive practices. Threatening an environmental group and its local director with legal actions in a "cease and desist" letter for asking questions, NOT FOR MAKING FALSE ACCUSATIONS, is contemptible by any standard.

The net result has been that none of us has "ceased" or "desisted", and we are, in fact, talking about it backed by Trinity East's own lawyerly letter to Zac and TCE showing how cowardly these clowns play their little game.

If I were Masterplan Consultants, Trinity East's PR firm, then I would take the environmental leaders out to Del Frisco's for a high end steak dinner because we have made a boatload of money for Masterplan by causing Trinity East to constantly fight this battle over and over again. We have succeeded in delaying approval for these SUPs because we have uncovered lies, deceptions, collusion and backroom dealing that is prohibited by state and federal laws.

I am sure that Trinity East feels badly about not being granted SUPs and drilling permits, but they have nobody other than themselves to blame. Nobody coerced them to fork over $19 Million and sign a deal for an exclusive land lease that stipulated drilling on park lands and in floodplains was prohibited by existing ordinances. Trinity East knew that the City Council, NOT the City Manager, was the only group who could modify existing codes to allow drilling in otherwise prohibited areas. If they want to sue Dallas, then why the hell are they waiting?

As for us, WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO BE QUIET! Get used to it!

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Let us know TE's response to disapproving a drill request per the contract they signed.

Suhm promised support in that process per the contract but made statements before and after signing she would not support a drill.

She entered a contract in Bad Faith in order to secure millions the City badly needed at the time.  

The City is going to get their clock cleaned in front of a jury if it denies the purpose it entered into the contract in the first place.

Or give the money back.

If they will take it.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

I emailed the Mayor yesteday (I'll send you a copy but Tone has one) and told him that intimidation tactics on a Dallas citizen just because they don't like the spotlight is unacceptable. I also beat him up for that circus/council meeting two weeks ago where the BS was a mile high mixed in with some "thank yew Jesus" remarks from Hill. Now that it has been revealed that Dallas has owned 184 acres of land with a drill rig on it, plus wells, and one of the well's failed at who knows how many feet below. Now we have private land owned by a group of rich guys with a 809% profit in one year on which Trinity East wants to build a refinery next door to the Elm Fork Soccer Complex. Too many secrets, too many lies. And now we hear, the Dallas Citizens Council's "big house"  just endorsed Vonciel Hill.

schermbeck
schermbeck

Thanks for this take putting the company's hypocrisy in high relief. 

Looking toward the (second, possibly illegal "reconsidered") March 21st vote by the City Plan Commission on all three Trinity East gas permits, it's clear that the non-disclosure of the relationship between Trinity East and City Hall staff  - including these previously undisclosed Irving wells - has corrupted the entire process for the last two years and made it impossible to have a fair debate. Trinity East and the City were already on the same side beginning with the secret 2008 agreement you published, but Dallas residents didn't know that.

This relationship accounts for the city's lack of due diligence in regard to the company's track record - admission of the the Irving wells and the casing failure would have been the result.  So it was avoided. Citizens had to go out and do what staff should have done.

It accounts for it's own hypocrisy in denying batch plant and rock-crushing permits because of concerns for air pollution to the new soccer fields next door, but urging approval of gas permits that would create at least four times more air pollution. Again, citizens had to research this turnabout because the staff could not call BS on itself without admitting the relationship. 

It accounts for the city's doing a 180 in how it has defined its own zoning classifications to suit Trinity East's denial that the huge refinery it wants to build is not really a refinery.

It accounts for the hasty, no-public-hearing-allowed "vote of reconsideration" which some of us believe was an illegal vote based on the Plan Commission Chair's systematic over-the-phone lobbying.

Go back a year, and it accounts for the last-minute, no-public-input-allowed rollbacks of flood plain and park protections included in the Gas Task Force recommendations on the very last day it met, when not all the members were present and debate had concluded.

In each instance city staff had another, hidden agenda that it was not publicly disclosing. An agenda directly at odds with its role as objective regulator and public health protector.

These permits are damaged goods. This thing has been rigged since the beginning. And if residents don't like that, they should show up next Thursday at 1:30 pm in the City Council Chambers and tell the Plan Commission to reject all three Trinity East permits.

director21
director21

@holmantx Every single assumption and statement you made is bogus and based upon false assumptions. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A CONTRACT BETWEEN THE CITY OF DALLAS AND TRINITY EAST OTHER THAN THE LAND LEASE. PERIOD! What don't you get about that?

The land lease never stipulated a right to drill. We have been over this matter a thousand times, but it does not seem to sink in. Read the documents - they have been published ad infinitum. The leases ALWAYS stipulated that a zoning change (SUP) and a drilling permit would be required BEFORE Trinity East would be allowed to drill, and neither was ever guaranteed.

Mary Suhm did NOT sign a "contract" telling Trinity East that she  would do everything within her power to get the zoning changes made so that SUPs and drilling permits could be issued. Trinity East sent Mary Suhm a letter stating their recognition of the prohibitions against drilling on park land and in floodplains, and stating that they hoped, by her signature on the letter then returned to them, that she would agree to use "all reasonable effort" of herself and her staff to get those zoning changes approved, but that no guarantee could be made because it was beyond her authority.

There is no way the city is going to get its clock cleaned. Unlike you, a judge would read the agreements, and then decide the case based upon facts and law. Upon reading the lease, which prohibits drilling in floodplains and parks unless the city amends the ordinances to allow it a judge would tell Trinity East that they took a calculated gamble and lost. Now, pay the city's legal costs!

I dare Trinity East to sue the City of Dallas. Steve Fort is an attorney. Trinity East has other attorneys on its staff and among its executives. If those guys cannot read and understand the contracts they sign, or try to pretend that a letter between Fort and Suhm is a legally binding contract, then they need to surrender their law licenses and demand refunds from whatever crapass law school issued their diplomas.

You just keep on making stupid statements based upon your flawed understanding of the facts. Fortunately for us, your opinion is worth nothing in a court of law.


scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@holmantx you know the contract is unenforceable, as it's terms are illegal.  Mary should be impeached, and the contract is all the evidence that's needed.  TE should be prosecuted for bribery of a public official.  I say let's save the death penalty for these two, as this might well discourage this looting of the public trust.  Shotgun to the face.  Hell, make it a 20 gauge with bird shot.  May need a few rounds to kill them, I would make them wait 30 minutes between rounds.  

director21
director21

@c1arence @director21 Several of us who have been actively involved in this issue since 2009 are responsible for the meeting in Irving. For over two years I have been trying to get people at North Hills Prep school and Las Colinas Equestrian Center on board with us because the planned drilling site on the golf course at L.B. Houston Sports Complex is directly across the river from their facilities which are located on the Irving (west) side of the Trinity River.

The City of Dallas is a minority partner in wells drilled at the University of Dallas in 2009, the first of which experienced a casing failure at a depth of just over 2,800 feet and which was eventually plugged and capped because Trinity East (aka Expro Engineering) was unable to remediate the failure and make the well productive. It blew out during a fracing operation. This information has been a carefully guarded secret until some of our group dug this out a couple of weeks ago.

We now have proof that Trinity East has lied to and deceived the City of Dallas officials and the public about this casing failure in addition to numerous other lies we have uncovered in the last few months, and for which we have been taking them to task in public hearings.

The meeting Monday night in Irving should be very interesting, but if you really want to see a show, then come to the Dallas CPC hearing on Thursday, March 21 at 1:30 PM in the Dallas City Council Chamber at City Hall, when the CPC is to take up its "reconsideration" vote on the three SUPs that they denied without prejudice on December 20, 2012. It should be a VERY interesting hearing.

Like you, we are hoping for a large turnout on both Monday night and Thursday afternoon. From what we have been told, some people in Irving are getting VERY concerned about what Dallas plans to do just a few hundred feet across the river from where their children attend school and where they stable, train and show dressage and hunter/jumper horses.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@director21 @holmantx Then why pay $19 mil for a land lease you have no hope of drilling out when Suhm said she'd kill the deal before and after the execution of the contract?  Go wash your face.

So you admit Suhm made statements she and her staff would make . . . how did you put it?  . . . . would agree to use "all reasonable effort" of herself and her staff . . . . 

Well, did she intentionally undermine that?

I don't have a dog in this.  By your fiery rhetoric you do.  It looks to me like they have a bitch.  

We'll know pretty soon.

director21
director21

@scottindallas @holmantx It appears that some people are confusing the lease contract with the letter sent by Trinity East which was signed by Mary Suhm and returned to Trinity East after the fact, and which is NOT a legally binding part of the lease, which is the ONLY contract signed by and between city officials and Trinity East.

The legally binding contract is merely an exclusive land lease with stipulations that drilling is NOT allowed in parks and floodplains. It was done BEFORE the letter to which you guys are referring. The letter was just Trinity East acknowledging that ordinances prohibit drilling in parks and floodplains, and seeking Suhm's help in getting those ordinances amended to allow them to drill where it is currently prohibited, to which Suhm agreed to make "all reasonable effort."

But, Suhm clearly stated that she did not have the authority to change the ordinances, and that only the City Council could make such changes. She testified to as much during her briefing on February 27, and she did so emphatically. If you remove personal opinions and invented "contract promises" from the equation, and then consider what transpired solely on the legal facts, then you will see what I am saying and agree with me. 

Trinity East certainly acknowledged that their leases were for land where drilling in parks and floodplains was prohibited, so they cannot possibly claim they were duped or suckered. They merely hoped that Mary and her staff could convince City Council to amend the ordinances, and that would have easily happened if not for a group of us who studied this issue inside and out, and then threw a monkey wrench in the gearworks.

It's a bitch when concerned citizens get to have a seat at the table!

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@scottindallas @holmantx TE entered in good faith.  It is not their job to figure out if the City Manager speaks for the City in a binding contract.  And if that contract says she was to support the effort to obtain a drill permit, which it supposedly does, and she made both verbal and written statements before and after the execution of the contract that she would NOT support it . . . . then it looks like it was a money grab without performance.

And that won't play in front of a jury.

director21
director21

@c1arence I should clarify something I said above - we who have worked on getting a meeting in Irving to discuss the TE sites at the golf course and gun range are not directly responsible for setting up the meeting this Monday night. We laid a predicate for it over the past two years by visiting, calling and writing to owners and operators of North Hills Prep School, Las Colinas Equestrian Center, various horse owner asociation members and boards, and other commercial and residential entities surrounding that area warning them of what was about to unfold next door to their facilities.

The actual work of putting together the meeting for Monday night was done by somebody else, though it might not have happened had I, and others, not raised red flags many times over the past couple of years since we learned about plans to drill on the golf course.

I apologize if I stepped on anybody's toes by insinuating that we were directly involved in getting the meeting set for this coming Monday night.

director21
director21

@holmantx @director21 I agree with you 100% on this matter. A court of law, where Mary has to testify under oath and would be held liable for perjury, is THE only appropriate venue for getting at the truth. Take Tom Perkins along with her.

I have asked the DOJ to do just that. They have not communicated back to me, but that is to be expected. If they do decide to investigate, and they do decide to take it to trial, then I am sure we will get public notification to that effect.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@director21 @holmantx 

Suhm and her staff need to be afforded another opportunity to explain themselves . . . in a public court under oath.

Think about it.

The last court of public opinion was a wee bit too friendly.

She'll be easier to get rid of when that happens.  We'll get to see how the sausage is really made.  She won't survive that.

director21
director21

@holmantx @director21 Have you ever been to Las Vegas? Did you gamble? Did you bet your money on the hope that you would get a payoff, but knowing there was the possibility that the house would clean your clock and you would end up selling your family jewels for plane fare back home?

Trinity East took a gamble. They may lose. If so, they are big boys, lawyers even, and they know the rules. They gambled because they were aware that none of us citizens knew what was going on and they figured they could score easy permits.

Apparently, you have a major comprehension issue. The letter Mary Suhm signed was published on the DO for the world to read. You could have attended the CPC briefing where she addressed this very issue, in public, on February 7, at which time she emphatically stated that there was NEVER a guarantee that Trinity East would be allowed to drill, and that they knew it because it was written in the lease agreement.

Suhm also told the City Council, in a public briefing of February 6, 2008 which was attended by Trinity East and their PR firm representatives, that THERE WOULD BE NO DRILLING ON THE SURFACE OF CITY-OWNED PARK LAND. That does not leave a lot of room for interpretation.

The letter she signed was NOT a contract. It was merely a letter stipulating that she and her staff would make "all reasonable effort" to get the City Council to amend the city ordinances that prohibit drilling in parks and floodplains. She specifically told them that she had no authority to make such changes, and that ONLY the City Council could amend the Dallas Development Code to allow activities that are prohibited. Trinity East knew and understood that. They even acknowledged as much in the letter they sent to Suhm for her to sign acknowledging that she and her staff would make "all reasonable effort" to get the City Council to amend the ordinances.

All of this has been stated many times over the past couple of years. It has been addressed as infinitum, with links to actual documents with the exception of the letter Mary Suhm signed which remained hidded from public perview until a month ago, even though we had heard about it and made numerous requests under the Texas Open Records Act to get a copy of it. Scott Griggs finally managed to get Tom Perkins to instruct Suhm that she had no choice but to release the letter, and that is how we got to finally see it, and it is what led to the briefing on February 7, called by Mayor Rawlings in an effort to distance himself from this whole sordid affair.

All that matters is the legal documents, and they clearly state that drilling in parks and floodplains is prohibited by city ordinances. Trinity East signed those leases, so it is presumed that they knew and understood the prohibitions. They counted on the general public remaining oblivious to this whole matter, and they were wrong. They gambled, and so far they have lost - every attempt to get the SUPs approved has met defeat. In the end, we did not stiff Trinity East at all. They knew the deal when they signed it and handed over the check.

Let me make it easier for you - let's say you rent an apartment, in your own name, intended to move somebody else in with you whose name is not on the lease, and that you intend to paint the apartment and make other modifications to it. Let's say you leased that apartment for three years, and you have an exclusive right to use that property. Your lease does not allow, and specifically prohibits, you to move in somebody whose name is not on the lease, and it specifically prohibits you from painting or otherwise modifying the property without getting written permission from the management or property owner. You have no right to move in whomever you want or make any modifications to the property without separate permission to do so. But, you do have the exclusive right to occupy that property for the three year term of your lease.

Trinity East is the lessee. They signed a lease and paid their "rent" for the three year period of the lease which was encumbered with certain prohibitions against drilling in parks and floodplains because those activities are not allowed by city ordinances as codified in Dallas Development Code Article V, Section 51A-5.103.1, Article V, Section 51A-5.104 and Article XI, Section 42.3.1E(iii).

Unless the Dallas City Council authorizes changes to the DCC removing the prohibitions against drilling in parks and floodplains AND meets Texas Parks and Wildlife Code (Chapter 26) relating to converting public park lands to industrial uses, Trinity East will NOT be allowed to drill there, and their $19 Million will have been spent on their three year lease for which they received an additional 30 months rent-free.

I don't know how I can explain it any better or simpler for you to understand. Instead of using emotion, try reading and comprehending it logically and legally. You might start by reading the actual lease, which was also published on the DO long ago, and you can get a free copy from the City of Dallas website if you cannot research and find the previous DO stories where that document was published.

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