Considering how little public notice there was, yesterday's Dallas City Council "public comment time" on the new gas-drilling ordinance was well-attended by residents supporting the Plan Commission Draft. Over two dozen people spoke in favor of the CPC recommendations, including the 1500 foot setback, and/or stronger language for parks and flood plains. Murky statements by the Mayor about whether speaking this week would disqualify you from also having your say at next week's public hearing immediately prior to the final Council vote kept other residents from going to the podium.
True to whatever consultant's media training rule book they're following, industry representatives waited until they thought citizen testimony ended to make their condescending case that citizens were relying only on fear and didn't really understand the fracking process. The problem with this strategy is that you have to pretend the previous 45 minutes of citizen testimony never happened, since it's always replete with references to new scientific studies showing increased health harms from fracking, or another connection with earthquakes, or just strange foamy crap falling out of the sky into your yard from the rig down the street. It turns out the industry folks are the ones who don't really know the process.
And as fate would have it, citizens weren't through testifying. Right after telling the City Council how much West Dallas would lose out by not embracing fracking in its neighborhoods, up popped a West Dallas resident who said she wanted nothing to do with the industry, no matter how much money was involved. After another industry spokesman again said supporters of a stronger ordinance were just imagining harms they weren't really there, Sierra Club member Molly Rooke gave a devastatingly effective presentation on exactly how real harms to real people had forced her own group to acknowledge the dangers of gas pollution after initially endorsing natural gas as an entirely green fuel.
Unlike the staff briefing of two weeks ago, which allowed industry supporters on the Council to bloviate at will over what a crime it was to limit drilling in Big D, nobody behind the horseshoe did any talking except the Mayor, who was perfunctory in his opening and closing remarks and didn't give any clues as to his position on the CPC draft. According to Rawlings, it was his idea to have this "public comment time" prior to the final hearing so there wouldn't be the pile-up there was during the Trinity East vote, where you felt more like you were a cog in an assembly line instead of a citizen participating in one the small pageants of American democracy.
At the end of the meeting, Texas Campaign for the Environment members unfurled a banner urging Rawlings to "Be Strong," which was quickly confiscated by the City Hall Police Rapid Protest Response Team. Here's the Dallas Morning News' muted coverage of the event.
Because of the weather, Dallas Residents at Risk is waiting until next Monday to gin up a final push for passage of the Plan Commission draft going into Wednesday's final public hearing and vote beginning at 1 pm at City Hall. Please stay tuned for details about how you can express your public support and send a message to the Council to pass a strong ordinance. We know we sound like a broken record, but if you haven't sent a quick e-mail to the Mayor yet, you can click here and do so within a minute pretty painlessly. If you want a short explanation of what's going and what votes are where, you can read this previous post and get caught-up.
We have only a week to make sure our last year's worth of hard uphill slogging through corruption, double-dealing, and aggressively ignorant bureaucracies is not in vain. Please help us make it the last 1500 feet.