Take a Tour of Dallas Gas Sites and Decide for Yourself if They’re Wasteland

Trinity River wasteland

(Dallas)—-A local clean air group released a short film of an official Dallas City Plan Commission tour of controversial gas drilling and production sites that it says rebuts the claims made by City Council members during last Wednesday's City Manager’s briefing on parkland drilling that the land is "desolate" and a "wasteland.”

Downwinders at Risk posted "Dallas Fracking Mystery Tour” early Tuesday morning for public viewing on its own website. It's a fast-paced four minute journal of a January 31st City Plan Dallas City Plan Commission bus tour of all three proposed Trinity East gas permit sites in Dallas: The Gun Club and the LB Houston/Luna Vista Golf Course drilling sites, both on city parkland, as well as the Luna Vista Processing Plant site, aka, "The Rawlings Refinery and Compressor Station," located only a short distance away from the City of Dallas' new Elm Fork Athletic Complex.

The group hired a local professional filmmaker to accompany the 15 Plan Commissioners, various city staff and members of the public on the half-day outing from the time they boarded two buses at City Hall to the last site visit, including question and answer sessions between Commissioners and David Cossum, the City of Dallas Assistant Director of Sustainable Development and Construction. The result is a quick take on each of the sites through the eyes of the tour participants.

“Contrary to claims by Council members who’ve never visited the sites they want to condemn, the Trinity River bottoms are not “wasteland,” said Jim Schermbeck, Director of Downwinders. “Even a quick look like this tour offered shows its never going to be mistaken for a Midland-Odessa oil patch.”

During last Wednesday’s briefing, Council member Sheffie Kadane compared the park land sites at the Gun Club and the Golf Course to West Texas oilfields, Council member Jerry Allen called them a “wasteland,” and Council member Dwaine Caraway said they didn’t represent “quality park land.” But looking at it the sites from the perspective of the Plan Commission tour, one sees expanses of hardwood forests, sculpted fairways, and a peacefully flowing Trinity River close-by.

Besides offering a striking visual counterpoint, the tour’s on-site Q&As between Plan Commission and City staff reveal other mistakes in drilling proponents’ claims about the sites. For example, Kadane has insisted there would never be drilling equipment in the actual flood plain, but as Cossum explains to an inquiring Commissioner, there will be.

Another Q&A at the refinery and compressor station site reveals City staff’s contradictory stances on sources of pollution surrounding the Elm Fork Athletic Complex – a new recreation facility expected to attract hundreds or thousands of children and their families on weekends.

The city is opposing a new permit from a near-by rock crushing facility permit because of concerns about its 17 tons of annual air pollution so close to the Complex, but supporting the construction of a gas refinery and compressor station that will admittedly release at least 75 tons a year of air pollution only 50 feet further away.  

Using the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” as a recurring soundtrack, the short film uses no voice over narration, relying only on the comments of tour participants and text. It repeatedly asks why the city would contradict its own current policy, answering that “It was a Mystery” at the time of the tour.

However in a postscript, it adds the February 7th Dallas Observer publication of the 2008 “secret agreement” between Dallas City Manager and Trinity East to exchange funds for leases on city land for city staff help in approving drilling and production permits. “Suddenly, it wasn’t a mystery anymore.”

Schermbeck says his group hopes the film will put “a face on the sites” they haven’t had before, and offer a short, entertaining way to get educated about the controversy.There’s been a lot of misinformation about these sites perpetrated by people who’ve never visited them. People can now see them the way the Plan Commission did and decide for themselves.“

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