Call to Action: First Vote on Dallas Gas Permits in 3 Years Thursday

by jim on December 18, 2012

For the first time in three years, the City of Dallas will be officially acting to approve or disapprove gas drilling permits within its city limits. It happens this Thursday, December 20th at 1:30 pm in the City Council Chamber on the 6th floor of City Hall.

The three permits being sought by gas operators Trinity East authorize up to 20 wells each, for a total of 60 wells.

One of the permits is requesting a gas compressor station only 600 feet from a soccer complex.

The other two permits would allow gas drilling in city parks and in the Trinity River floodplain.

These are all bad ideas. Lois Finkelman, the Chair of the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force advised the City to keep compressor stations out of town. The city currently doesn't allow drilling in the flood plain or on parkland. This vote roles all these bad ideas into one big Very Bad Idea.

Then there's the bad government part. Instead of the City Council adopting a new gas policy that covers all gas operators and then allowing permits to be issued under that policy, the Council is doing it backwards. It's issuing permits for specific sites before the broader, more comprehensive policy is in place. Since drilling in the flood plain and city parkland isn't allowed under current law, the Plan Commission is being asked to approve permits that violates city regulations, with the expectation that the Council will then make these prohibited activities legal. The Council is asking the Plan Commission to do its dirty work for it. It should decline the offer.

Compressor stations are the cement plants of the gas cycle. In fact, some of their emissions are larger than those of a cement plant. Only instead of 300 foot stacks, the pollution comes out 20 feet above ground level. Unlike a gas drilling rig, these facilities run 24/7. By Standard Permit compressors are allowed to emit up to 25 tons of Volatile Organic Compounds like Benzene and Formaldehyde, both carcinogens, 25 tons of Sulfur Dioxide, a respiratory irritant, and 250 tons of smog-forming Nitrogen Oxide. They're also some of the largest sources of Greenhouse Gas pollution in North Texas. Compressors are large industrial operations that don't belong anywhere near people, much less a soccer field full of kids.

Opening the door to drilling on city parkland and in the floodplain sends the wrong message at the wrong time. This allows green space to be permanently removed for industrial use. It creates flooding hazards. It sets s a terrible precedent that will come back to haunt Dallas.

The Powers that Be hope that by scheduling it so close to Christmas, this vote, which brings to an end a three year moratorium on such gas permit requests, will be under your radar. Please show them they're wrong. We know it's a pain to have to deal with this right now, but we don't have any choice.

For three years, we've managed to hold off the rush to drill in Dallas. Time and again you've helped us do so by showing up at critical points in the process. This is the most critical one so far.

And once again, only a strong public showing of opposition from you and other supporters of a sane public health and environmental policy can prevent this Very Bad Idea from becoming reality. Please be there at City Hall at 1:30 pm on Thursday or show up as soon as you can. We wouldn't be asking for your help at this busy time of year unless we really needed you to be there for this one.

Meanwhile, our friends at the Texas Campaign for the Environment have just set up an easy way to e-mail members of the City Plan Commission with prepared comments or ones of your own making at this site: http://www.texasenvironment.org/dsp_TargetTemplate_choices.cfm?TTID=39

Please send comments in between now and Thursday at 12 noon to have an impact. Thanks very much for your support. If enough of us show up, we can do it again.

Jim Schermbeck, Downwinders at Risk

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