Is Dallas About to Roll Back Drilling Buffer Zones for Schools and Parks?

by Downwinders on February 23, 2012

If gas industry representatives get their way during the final Gas Drilling Task Force meeting next Tuesday, fracking will be allowed much closer to homes and schools, and even inside Dallas parks, a reversal of previous positions. What’s ironic is that the President of the Dallas Parks and Recreation, Joan Walne, may facilitate these efforts. Walne has been voting with industry throughout the course of the Task Force meetings, participating in votes this week that removed protections already agreed to for flood plain drilling. In the past, she’s had no problem with the idea of sacrificing city parks to drilling rigs. She’s expected to be a key vote next Tuesday. “As it turns out, putting Joan Walne in charge of protecting Dallas public parks from the gas industry on this Task Force was like putting John Dillinger in charge of protecting the city’s bank account,” said Downwinders at Risk Director Jim Schermbeck. Besides allowing rigs and giant compressors in parks, the Task Force is also expected to be asked by industry representatives to “revisit” the current recommendation requiring a 1000 foot setback from all homes, schools, churches and hospitals. They want it rolled back to between 500 and 700 feet, similar to how drilling is handled in Fort Worth. “After already agreeing to inadequate 1000-foot buffer zones weeks ago for these ‘protected uses,’ industry now wants to go back and have another try at drilling right in our back yards,” warned Zac Trahan of the Texas Campaign for the Environment. “They want to put a well pad as close as 500 feet from a school, hospital or home – and as close as 300 feet from an office building, retail store or restaurant. A well pad could mean as many as 24 wells, a battery of storage tanks, and a large compressor that generates thousands of tons of air pollution a year. That’s unacceptable to us, and we think, most Dallas residents.” Waln, as well as Texas Business for Clean Air Director Margaret Keliher, and Dallas attorney John McCall are expected to be key votes on the setbacks issue. Keliher had led the effort to disregard the current ordinance and allow drilling in the Trinity River floodplain, while McCall is supporting rigs as close as 300 feet to commercial pieces of property like office building, restaurant or other place of business. Both Schermbeck and Trahan urged Dallas residents to e-mail the Task Force member and express their concern at the upcoming votes. “With only 11 members, and previous protections hanging on lots of 6-5 votes, an absence or change of heart has large ramifications,” said Schermbeck.  “We need Dallas residents to wake up and realize their fate is hanging on only a couple of votes from people they didn’t elect.” E-Mail Addresses of Dallas Gas Task Force members:

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