Door Slowly Closing at Plan Commission on Frack Sites Along the Trinity River

Categories: City Hall

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Before the Dallas Plan Commission got to what is almost certainly the most controversial matter it has ever deliberated on -- whether and how the city should drill for natural gas -- it spent more than an hour on the positioning of a wooden fence and a gazebo in relation to the street in a neighborhood near Preston Hollow.

Some wealthy car dealer flouted the 20-foot setback from the road when he built his "pavilion," as his attorney referred to it, and was seeking an exemption. Many of his neighbors, it appeared, were quite exercised about this. The commission considered the issue with all due gravity and ultimately concluded that rules are rules, and they couldn't simply give the car dealer a free pass because he was heedless of them. The gazebo, it seems, will have to be razed. These are the humdrum proceedings of a city plan commission.

But on Thursday afternoon, hours later, after it had dispensed with all of its other business, the commission finally got around to the public hearing on a set of rules that will govern fracking in the city. The usual cast of characters -- many of whom do not live in Dallas -- stuck around to address the commission, and their sentiments haven't much changed.

A woman from Carrollton called oil and gas operators "environmental pornographers." A man siding with the industry helpfully pointed out to the commissioners that he'd been referred to by the opposition as a "motherfucker."

Dallas Cothrum, representing Trinity East -- the Fort Worth independent that paid some $20 million to drill for gas in the city -- said the 1,500-foot setback under consideration by the commission means the company will require 250 uninhabited acres in Dallas to comply with the proposed ordinance. "That's larger than SMU and the arboretum combined," he said.

This was only a public hearing, so no decisions were made. I caught up with Cothrum afterward. He said he can't help but savor the sweet irony behind the fact that it'd be easier to site a sexually oriented business in Dallas than it would be to drill a well.

Trinity East CEO Tom Blanton said a 1,500-foot setback is tantamount to a moratorium on drilling in the city. There have been rumors floating around that Trinity East is in talks with the city about a land swap that might be more favorable for drilling. I put it to him, but he wouldn't comment.

I asked him whether he was considering litigation now that it appears his millions could be circling the drain. "Not now," he said. "We're going to go in to win."

He was reflective as the police hustled us out of the building. "I believe this could be the most productive part of the Barnett Shale. That's why we're here."

He chuckled, adding, "And for the $19 million."

As he walked away, heading to the car where his wife waited for him, he looked over his shoulder: "I could have retired on that!"

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Plan Commissioners and City Council members don't want to go down in history as the City leaders who sold our water, air, and infrastructure safety to 1950's non-world class energy peddlers.


A man siding with the industry helpfully pointed out to the commissioners that he'd been referred to by the opposition as a "motherfucker."

This is a misquote. What Joe said was that he had been called a Motherfracker, which is not really much different that being called a motherfucker, but it is still a differentiation. On the FracDallas website is a graphic referring to several drilling companies as "Them Motherfrackers." That was where he came up with that phrase.

It helps top accurately quote what was said.


Cothram brought up the comparison of "sexually oriented businesses." Well, apples to apples.


For the record: of the 35 speakers in support of a 1,500 foot or more setback, 30 gave Dallas addresses. Among the Light Crude Brigade, I counted six out of nine as giving Dallas addresses. Some of us in the environmental community invite non-Dallas residents to come and testify about what it's like to live adjacent to a well or compressor station because Dallas has no such thing yet, and otherwise you're only hearing the industry's description of what it's like. If there's any question about how most Dallas residents feel who have an opinion on this issue, I haven't seen it. I think the recent council campaigns and DMN editorials are proof of where general agreement is. IMHO, at this point in this fight, keeping up with the residency of folks at public hearings as if it mattered makes the DO look likes its going all birther on us.

I still find it interesting that no one at Dallas City Hall wants to discuss the 2009 Trinity East Energy drilling mishap whereupon the casing broke underground. We will never know what contaminants were or were not released and for how long. When we will find out about the current UD lease agreement with them that was negotiated without council approval? The Trinity East Energy and City of Dallas relationship has the potential to be as big as the Don Hill case if the media would get busy. If Trinity East were to win(and they won't) the next day you would see this lease flipped over to XTO/Exxon. Watch and learn.


To everyone in the room yesterday who made sexual connotations:  "get a room!"

holmantx topcommenter

"Some wealthy car dealer . . ."

Do we live in an alternative universe?

“Treasury made a series of decisions that may have substantially contributed to the accelerated shuttering of thousands of small businesses and thereby potentially adding tens of thousands of workers to the already lengthy unemployment rolls," said the report, released by the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program Neil Barofsky in July 2010.

Backed by the U.S. government, GM, according to the report, informed more than 2,000 dealers that some or all of their agreements would not be renewed and Chrysler eliminated 789 dealers. 


 Shale Grab in U.S. Stalls as Falling Values Repel Buyers - The deal-making slump, which may last for years, threatens to slow oil and gas production growth as companies that built up debt during the rush for shale acreage can’t depend on asset sales to fund drilling programs. The decline has pushed acquisitions of North American energy assets in the first-half of the year to the lowest since 2004.


TE is probably on shaky ground, financially.  Most shale companies are.  Which may motivate them to file suit once they exhaust their municipal remedies, which is required before they go after the City for Bad Faith.

Hopefully, they'll just collapse financially before that. 

You always hurt the one you love.


@dmtrousd To Cothrum's statement, sexually oriented businesses conduct their business behind closed doors and nobody knows what goes on unless they go inside. I am not aware of a single person being adversely affected by the operation of a sexually oriented business unless that person chooses to enter the premises of his or her own volition and partake of whatever goes on inside.

On the other hand, gas exploration and production shares its harmful side effects with anybody unfortunate enough to be exposed. Without regard for public health and safety, property values or the environment the oil and gas industry seeks to profit at the expense of the general public. Its reach goes far beyond the 1,000 foot setback requirement for sexually oriented businesses.

To be sure, fracing IS pornographic. If you have not yet seen the first hand accounts of what a premature birth human or animal looks like after the mother was exposed to dangerous VOCs and NOx from fracing operations, then watch the documentary titled "Wiebo's War" and be prepared to be sick. Weibo Ludwig and his family are not constrained by any non-disclosure agreement, and they are telling their story for the world to hear.


@schermbeck Also for the record, while I temporarily live outside Dallas City Limits I am a native Dallasite and have lived in Dallas for over 90% of my life, and I will soon return to living in Dallas. I have family and lifelong friends who still live in Dallas on whose behalf I speak. And, some of the addresses given by pro-drilling forces are NOT their residence addresses, but rather their business mailing addresses.

It helps to remember that we all drink the same water, we all breathe the same air and our food is grown in the same soil, so where a person resides is really a moot point. I have to fight to protect YOUR water, air and soil so that mine are also protected. Sadly, industry stooges fail to acknowledge that simple fact of life.

gmit They did a great job of sneaking the UD well in during the Hwy114 expansion when you could not access that portion of the road

Just odd to me the company would actually pay $20M to access lands they should have know would be hard to access via city ordinances, I would bet there were serious contingencies in that contract in terms of consideration if things didnt work out, Ill bet they never actually paid the full amount or will be due a hefty refund 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter


I would like to make a reply, but I think it may be more effective if you were to either take a course or two in basic economics or perhaps read a book or two on basic economics.

Just because some dealerships were closed and some businesses were shuttered does not necessarily imply that all dealerships and all businesses associated with the car manufacturers were in poor financial condition.

In the economic slump, the car industry overall was faced with significant overcapacity  in the assembly plants, dealerships; and, the supplier chain.  Not all dealerships and suppliers were in poor financial condition.  Generally, the ones that were shuttered were the ones with insufficient capital and/or margins.  Many of the dealerships that were shuttered had marginal sales volumes to begin with and may have been over-levered in their financing.

Just as in the contraction in the auto industry in the late 70's and early 80's when market demand went from 18M units to less than 12M units in about 3 years, this economic slump had the same effects.

Consider that 30 years ago the average age of the passenger car fleet was less than three years old and now is approaching 6 years old and increasing, the manufacturing capacity for passenger automobiles will likely continue to stay flat to decreasing barring some other market opening up, such as mainland China.

As far as the shale wells go, lets just leave that discussion for another time.

holmantx topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @holmantx 

I am an economist of sorts with regard to the auto industry.  

It is not the function of a limited state to decide which dealership across America receives autos and has their brand yanked.  You just decided the fate of every small town dealership in America.  Government is not competent to intervene since its decisions are influenced NOT by the bottom line but other motivations.  Let them fail like the Airlines.  But the unions had to be saved.

And the manner in which government stepped in via controlling the means of production (taking controlling ownership in decision making) had a political consideration to it.  The unions were bailed out and placed in an ownership position.

As Whitakre famously said when he was approved by the Bush administration to head up GM, "this isn't a car company, it is a retirement system".

You do not know what you are talking about.

primi_timpano topcommenter

I think the car companies agreed to the retirement systems, just like every other company sponsored system. The car companies were in debt to the retirement plans, therefore in bankruptcy some of the debt was converted to equity. This is not a scam, it the fate of a declining industry.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@holmantx @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  

The recent auto bailout is a text book example of the Golden Rule: "He who has the Gold makes the Rules."

I do have to criticize the auto companies for holding an economic gun to the government, i.e. society's head, and demanding, actually extorting, low cost financial support.  the UAW was definitely one of the piggies at the trough by their demanding a very large piece of the pie.

I disagree with you about the auto dealerships.  Most of the ones that were shuttered were marginal outlets to begin with.

The economic downturn merely sped up the process of contraction.

As far as the retirement system quote goes, we might as well quote Pogo from many years ago when he said: "We have met the enemy and it is us."

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