Dallas Jury Awards $3 Million to Wise County Family In "First Fracking Trial"

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via Earthworks
The Parr family says their daughter, Emma, began suffering nosebleeds when gas drilling operations took root nearby.
When the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality took air samples from near Bob and Lisa Parr's Wise County ranch on several occasions in 2010, their conclusions varied little. The levels of possibly harmful volatile organic compounds were too low to cause "adverse health effects"

Such chemicals "were either not detected or were detected below levels of short-term health and/or welfare concern."

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Downtown Dallas' El Centro College Now Has a Rooftop Wind Farm

Dallas County Community College District
For the past six years, apparently, El Centro College has been planning a rooftop wind farm for its Downtown Dallas campus. On Tuesday afternoon -- Earth Day -- the project went live as students watched on a student union video feed.

It's a relatively modest effort as far as wind farms go. The project cost $240,000. When completed, it will include 80 turbines, each about the height of an adult human, capturing enough energy to power the 2,000 computers in El Centro's computer labs and save an estimated $15,000 to $20,000 per year in electricity costs.

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Texas Freezes Agency's Funding Over Release of Data Linking Fracking to Ozone Pollution

Categories: The Environment

Daniel Foster
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has consistently said that fracking has no significant impact on air quality, not in the Barnett Shale. Not in the Eagle Ford Shale. Not anywhere.

It was news, then, when a TCEQ-funded study, performed by the Alamo Area Council of Governments, a San Antonio-area regional planning agency, suggested a link between oil and gas drilling and a recent surge in the region's ozone levels.

Was TCEQ finally admitting that the fumes being belched out by gas wells and compressor stations might be having a negative effect on air quality? Far from it. So miffed was the agency that it froze funding for the Alamo COG.

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Fort Worth's Not Sure Its Lawns Could Take Permanent Twice-a-Week Watering

Categories: The Environment

In the two years since the Dallas City Council made twice-per-week watering restrictions permanent the water situation in North Texas hasn't improved much. We're still in severe drought, lake levels are still low and long-term projections of drought and population growth still aren't pretty. A slightly less verdant lawn seems a small concession.

Not in Fort Worth, where the City Council on Tuesday tabled a proposal to implement permanent twice-weekly watering restrictions, five of the body's nine members having "suddenly gone weak in the knees," in the words of the Star-Telegram's chiding editorial.

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Retailers Turn to Greg Abbott in Fight Against Plastic Bag Bans

Categories: The Environment

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Bernard Burns
If plastic bags are banned, how will people make such fashionable dresses?
The best argument against plastic bag bans like the one Dallas is set to consider very soon is that they're not really worth the energy. Plastic sacks make up a relatively small fraction of the waste stream, hardly enough to justify inconveniencing shoppers or retailers.

It's not a particularly good argument, and it's failed to keep nine (and counting) Texas cities from adopting bag bans. Which is why libertarian skeptics, plastic bag manufacturers and grocery stores have been seeking alternative means of saving the plastic bags, like pointing to an obscure provision in state law that bars cities from regulating certain types of solid waste.

That was the argument put forth by Texas Retailers Association in its lawsuit against the city of Austin last year. And it's the argument being made by Republican state Representative Dan Flynn of Canton -- with the backing of the Texas Retailers Association -- in a letter asking Attorney General Greg Abbott to weigh in on the issue.

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Preservationists Think Dallas' White Rock-to-I-20 Trail is a Really Terrible Idea

Categories: The Environment

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City of Dallas
A vision of the future Trinity Forest Spine Trail
This past weekend accountant-cum-outdoorsman Ben Sandifer, author of the Dallas Trinity Trails blog, donned his Carhart overalls and led a small cadre of nature types and SMU engineering students down to Big Spring, the site of preservationists' ongoing but apparently successful battle with City Hall.

Initial surveys put the modest seep -- once home to Dallas founder John Neely Bryan, a rare urban water source that people haven't ruined -- in the path of the Texas Horse Park, but plans have changed. Now, the city is working to protect it.

As Sandifer led the group through a wet meadow to showcase a beaver dam, he gestured a few paces into the woods, toward another potential trouble spot. It's just trees and underbrush right now but soon, whenever it can find the money, the city wants to put down a 12-foot-wide ribbon of concrete as part of the Trinity Spine Trail, which will stretch from White Rock to Interstate 20.

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San Antonio Wants To Mock Dallas' Death-River. How Cute.

Steve Rainwater
Two days ago, Mark Cuban took time out of his busy schedule to acknowledge the existence of San Antonio and its "muddy ugly-ass River Walk."

The proper response would have a polite curtsy, if not gushing praise, from San Antonio, thanking Cuban for deigning to mention their humble burg and for his uncanny ability to state facts about bodies of water. Instead, we get this, a bitter attack on the Trinity River.

"At least the San Antonio River doesn't reek of wastewater and dead animals," reporter Kolten Parker wrote yesterday in the San Antonio Express-News. He also quotes a 1925 assessment by the Texas Department of Health, labeling the Trinity a "mythological river of death."

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Trinity East Is Suing the City of Dallas For Reneging on Fracking Leases [Updated]

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It's been six months since the Dallas City Council rejected applications from Trinity East Energy to drill for natural gas on city-owned land it had paid $19 million to lease five years earlier. But no one really expected that to be the end of the fight. The company had spent too much money to go down that easy. Besides, it had been assured that it would be allowed to drill, no matter that those assurances were made as part of a side deal orchestrated by then-City Manager Mary Suhm.

The news today that Trinity East is suing the city to recover tens of millions of dollars it says it lost in its attempt to drill on the city-owned plots, should surprise no one.

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Council Members Say Dallas' Tree-Protection Rules Are Killing Development in Southern Dallas -- And They Might Have a Point

Categories: The Environment

Steve Houser
Developers have been bitching about Dallas' tree-preservation rules since they were first put in place two decades ago. Though the regulations are fairly light (trees of certain desirable species must be replaced or offset by a contribution to the city's reforestation fund), they've been loath to accept the notion that a few sticks of wood should be allowed to stand in the way of economic progress.

The developer perspective got a hearty endorsement from members of the City Council's Quality of Life Committee this morning.

"We've got our arms tied between our back," Councilman Rick Callahan said, arguing that businesses are forsaking Dallas for the "cotton fields" of Plano and Murphy so they don't have to comply with the tree ordinance.

Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins agreed, arguing that economic development in tree-filled southern Dallas was DOA so long as Dallas is so strict.

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Dallas Adding Mandatory Rate Hikes to Its Drought-Response Arsenal

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Councilman Philip Kingston's lonely quest to kill off the Lawn Whisperer appears like it's doomed to fail. Mr. Whisperer, a character in advertisements, features prominently in the city's long-term water-conservation plan, which was briefed to the City Council's Quality of Life Committee this morning.

But it looks like Dallas Water Utilities has taken Kingston's other water-related directive to heart: "You conserve water by paying a higher price."

As part of its new, state-mandated drought-contingency plan, the city plans to start charging more for water when things get particularly dry.

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