Something strange happened on the way to losing the battle in order to win the war. The battle was won. At least for now.
It wasn't a permit denial. It wasn't a ban. It wasn't even a new ordinance. But the Mansfield Gas Well Awareness group pulled off their first significant victory at the council level Monday night when a third and final reading of a new 34 multi-well pad site, plus compressor, plus storage tanks, plus dehydrators, plus re-boilers, plus separators, gas-industrial-complex that seemed like a done deal only 30 days ago was unanimously tabled until new rules for drilling in the city are put in place later this year.
Edge Resources' original Special Use Permit, acquired in 2008 (before the passage of the current gas drilling ordinance with its 600-foot setbacks), and hosting 2 current wells, had expired over a year ago. Yet instead of going back through the Planning and Zoning Commission and applying for a new SUP, the company pursued an unusual side deal with the city council that would allow "renewal" of the site permit with the two wells, plus permission for an additional 34 wells, a compressor, and a lot of other facilities only 3-400 feet from current homes – in exchange for setting-aside some acreage next to this gasland extravaganza for "parkland." How could the council refuse?
Moreover, unpublicized negotiations for this swap were going on even as the council met on December 3rd to begin "an open dialogue" with the MGWA group at a special workshop to initiate a new gas drilling ordinance, including a request for a new setback of at least 1500 feet. No mention was made that night by any city official that the massive Edge Resources site reauthorization that undermined that request was in play. The first time residents learned about it was when it appeared on the council agenda the very next day for a "first reading,"re: approval.
Two weeks ago, the permit came up for a "second reading" and residents rallied. This time there was some news coverage and new opponents showed up at City Hall to speak against the renewal while a new ordinance was being considered. With gas prices at historic lows, the question was repeatedly asked, "What's the rush?"
In the glare of the spotlight for the first time, council members now sought new assurances from the company that the nice slide show about site development they were seeing actually represented what the city would be getting. Instead, all the company would say was that that level of industry best practices "could be deployed." With emissions from the proposed wells estimated at up to 13 tons per year alone, this was of more than passing interest to residents. City council members might have thought they heard real commitments, or maybe just pretended to hear them. Either way, the stage was set for final approval at the third reading at the end of the month.
Even though they were protesting the permit, Mansfield group members were so used to seeing their concerns discounted by an unresponsive council that they had no hope of actually stopping or delaying it. Still, they trudged on, wanting to turn this fight into an example of what was wrong with the current ordinance and get some mileage out of certain defeat. Lose the battle, win the war. They passed out fliers in surrounding neighborhoods, they met with individual council members, they sent out social media alerts. They put themselves in a position to be lucky, just in case.
On Monday night, more allies of the group came to City Hall for the third and final reading of the gas permit, along with opponents of a new medical waste transfer and sterilization facility that wants to set up in town. Now the council had a new problem. On the one hand it had a history of punting to the state over health concerns about drilling. Austin had the "experts" and the experts had claimed it was OK. On the other hand, those same Austin experts had now claimed the very, very unpopular newly-proposed medical waste facility was hunky-dory as well. What to do?
Getting tough in front of the crowd, the Council pressed Edge for promises it would abide by all provisions of a new gas ordinance save any new setback requirements (since the new wells would be even closer than the current 600 foot setback normally allows). Edge countered with a carefully and lawyerly-crafted statement that left them an out to such a promise, seemingly in contrast to what the company had committed to only two weeks earlier – but only if you weren't listening. Remember, those state-of-the-art practices "could be" deployed – not necessarily had to be.
It became painfully clear why the city needs all operators and all wells to adhere to a routine SUP process instead of working side deals on its own behind closed doors. Even so, last year such a permit request would have sailed through the council. This year, the organizing done by the Mansfield Gas Well Awareness Group made it harder for business as usual to take place. Much, much harder.
The Mayor and council members signaled their frustration over the lack of a clear yes or no commitment from Edge to go along with a new ordinance. After recessing into executive session and giving the company's lawyers almost an hour to work up the nerve to approve conditional acceptance, the council came back and still confronted the same kind of wiggle-room language they were trying to avoid. As a result, the "done deal" got undone at the last possible minute, and the council voted unanimously to table the third and final reading of the permit renewal until after adoption of a new gas drilling ordinance. For the first time in two years, Mansfield residents got what they had asked for when it came to a gas well permit.
It's only a delay. And the stubbornness of Edge's lawyers is as responsible as any thing else for the win. And the really big war over a new ordinance is about to start with most of the council seemingly unwilling to retreat from a "Fort Worth model" 600-foot setback. But better to start such a war with an unexpected victory in battle than a routine loss, plus a lesson about what can be accomplished if you work hard enough to be lucky.
Those that keep up with these things know the rate of new information about fracking has increased almost exponentially for the past couple of years. New studies arrive monthly covering a host of subjects – air pollution, water contamination, earthquakes from injection wells, truck traffic, etc. So many it's hard to keep up and get a view above the fray. Now, at least for the next couple of months, there's a new comprehensive guide for journalists, citizens, and policymakers that tries to put all the latest evidence into one publication.
Produced by the Concerned Health Professionals of New York, the new document has the slightly unwieldy title of "Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking." Clocking in at over 60 pages, it does manage to cover a lot of ground, including air and water pollution, occupational hazards, noise pollution, earthquakes, flooding, radioactive releases, climate change, agricultural threats, crime rates, property values, and the inflated economics of gas reserves. In short, for now, it appears to be the one-stop shop for everything you wish you didn't need to know about fracking, but wanted to ask.
Extensively researched and footnoted, the Compendium is something you can hand your city council member or State Representative in hopes that their superficial scanning at least produces a better appreciation for the myriad of hazards now associated with the practice.
We've learned form sources inside City Hall that Trinity East – with a big assist from City of Dallas staff and Mayor Mike Rawlings – is preparing to once again attempt to permit its three proposed drilling and refinery/compressor station sites along the Trinity River.
While the company and city staff keep trying to win support for a weaker new gas drilling ordinance than citizens have repeatedly requested, a deal is being wheeled that would have Trinity East trading its lease on park land for another piece of city-owned property in northeast Dallas. Meanwhile, the City is also working feverishly to firm up support for its official position that it can't possibly turn down Trinity East without losing a lawsuit – an opinion no one outside of City Hall, save Trinity East, shares so far.
Yeah, the secret gas deal that the Observer uncovered in February got City Manger Mary Suhm to finally leave the building come December, but she's not going until she gets those Trinity East sites permitted the way she promised behind closed doors.
All of which makes the writing of a brand new Dallas gas drilling ordinance even more important now. And last week the City Plan Commission released its two-month schedule of how that's going to be done (see below), complete with three (daytime) public hearings with an ETA to the City Council by October.
There will be just six more meetings of the Plan Commission to review the almost two-year old Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force recommendations and decide to take them at face value, strengthen them, or weaken them. Scatted among these will be three public hearings – the first one in a little over two weeks on August 15th from 4 to 6 pm. The Commission goal is to get a new drilling ordinance to the City Council by October, when the terms of current members expire.
That's the official agenda. The unofficial one is trying to find ways to weaken the new ordinance enough to allow Trinity East to be able to get their proposed sites permitted. There's already been plenty of evidence at previous meetings indicating how desperate staff is in trying to give their departing boss a going-away gift.
We know most of you can't come to the Plan Commission workshops on Thursday mornings to follow the nitty-gritty of how this plays out. We'll be there reporting that to you, no problem. But what we can't do is manufacture warm bodies to put in seats for those three public hearings. Please make it a point to show up at one or more of these – and in particular, the very last one on September 26th as it rolls into the City Council.
Trinity East lobbyist Dallas Cothrum is on record as saying the company's three previously proposed sites on parkland, flood plains and near a new soccer complex that have now been rejected twice by this same CPC were the "best possible" places the company could have chosen for drilling and processing. So now the battle is over the less-than-best possible places. We can't wait to see what part of town the City and Trinity will decide to sacrifice for that designation as part of their possible land-swap deal.
Making sure a new drilling ordinance is the most protective it can possibly be is the only way left to finally drive a stake through the heart of the Trinity East gas permits. You have no idea how much we hate to ring the alarm about these damn permits again, but the stakes are very high and we're on the verge of winning one of the Barnett Shale's biggest citizen victories – if we can just keep the pedal to the metal. Bring your lead feet to the first hearing on August 15th.
Schedule for the City Plan Commission's Workshops and Public Hearings on the New Gas Drilling Ordinance
(All workshop meetings start at 9 am and take place on the 5th floor at 5ES in City Hall unless otherwise indicated. Specific Room locations for the Public Hearings at City Hall will be announced. Topic #’s refer to the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force Recommendations Matrix.)
THURSDAY, JULY 25
9:00 am – 12 Noon CPC Workshop
• Topic 4 – Pad Site Operations
THURSDAY, AUGUST 8
9:00 am -12 Noon CPC Workshop
• Topic 9 – Gas Drilling/Well Permit
• Topic 14 – Bonding Requirements
• Topic 15 – Site Monitoring and Review of Permit Application
THURSDAY, AUGUST 15
1:30 pm – 3:30 pm Workshop
• Topic 13 – Required Plans
THURSDAY, AUGUST 15th PUBLIC HEARING: 4:00 – 6:00 pm
THURSDAY, AUGUST 22
9:00 am to 12 Noon CPC Workshop
• Topic 1 – Air Quality
• Topic 2 – Water
THURSDAY AUGUST 29
9:00 am – 10:45 am CPC Workshop
• Topic 3 – Physical Pad Site
• Topic 16 – Emergency Response
• Topic 5 – Abandonment and Restoration
THURSDAY, AUGUST 29th PUBLIC HEARING: 11:00 AM -12:00 NOON
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
9:00 – 12 Noon CPC Workshop
• Topic 10 – Seismic Permits
• Topics 6 – Pipelines and Compressors
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 26th PUBLIC HEARING 1:30 PM -?
(Agenda: What to recommend to City Council)
(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.“
It's hard to put Wednesday's Dallas City Council meeting into words. The level of aggressive ignorance reached heretofore unknown oxygen-gasping altitudes, as a City Manager who intentionally deceived the Council and public for at least five years was compared to Jesus, and meddlesome residents were castigated for being impediments to the real job at hand – draining city "wasteland" of its gas resources.
Save for a Perry Mason-worthy cross-examination of City Manager Mary Suhm by Council member Angela Hunt with back-up by Scott Griggs and Sandy Greyson, citizens looking for some accountability for the lack of disclosure over a side deal with industry, or how parkland that was never slated for drilling suddenly landed on a list of drill sites, were left very disappointed.
But professional journalists are paid to write about such things no matter how hard it is to capture the depth of obliviousness, shallowness, and empty-headedness. And If you haven't already, you need to read two published accounts that will send you reeling. One is Jim Schutze's take in the Dallas Observer. The other is today's surprisingly strong Dallas Morning News editorial. We urge you to leave an online comment in support of this editorial, as it's one of the most remarkable the News has ever published. That in itself should indicate how bad Wednesday was – even the Morning News, defender of the Dallas Establishment, was appalled.
As Schutze points out, the most over-the-top and vicious diatribe belonged to current Council member Vonciel Hill, who wrapped herself in self-righteous religious language in condemning fellow council member Angela Hunt and praising the City Manager. From her skewed point of view, it was Mary Suhm who had been outrageously wronged, and Hunt who was at fault for even questioning the integrity of a person who would engage in obviously unimportant things like secret agreements with industry, and misleading statements.
That's why we're very encouraged to hear the news this morning that longtime neighborhood advocate and clean air supporter Claudia Meyer is filing to run against Vonciel Hill in the newly-created District 3 that covers southwest Dallas. Claudia is a former Assisted Living facility director and medical social worker who's lived with her husband in the same Mountain Creek home for over 30 years. She’s been a well-known neighborhood advocate as a board member of both the Fox Hollow Homeowners Association and Mountain Creek Neighborhood Alliance. She also has a long history of volunteer public service on behalf of the community including membership on the boards of the Friends of Mountain Creek Library, Friends of Fox Hollow Park, and the Dallas Municipal Library Board.
But most people reading this will instantly recognize her as the motherly-figure that has guided Dallas neighborhood resistance to irresponsible gas drilling for the last four years. She and her husband Ed have been a fixture at every official meeting where gas permits have been discussed since 2009. They also happen to be longtime Downwinders, having come on board during the 1990's TXI hazardous waste burning fight.
Given the tone of the Dallas City Council on Wednesday, symbolized by Vonciel Hill's speechifying, electing Claudia Meyer may be that the most important thing any Dallas area person who calls him or herself an environmentalist can do for the local biosphere between now and June. Why? Defeat of Hill would strike at the heart of the drilling-at-all-costs faction of the Council, and just might provide a one-vote margin for denying all three Trinity East gas permits, including the refinery/compressor station that will become Dallas' 10th largest air polluter in Dallas the moment it comes online. Moreover, along with Scott Griggs and Sandy Greyson, Claudia could be a strong voice for a greener, more citizen-friendly Dallas in general. That's why the North Dallas-based Citizens Council will probably be spending a lot of money trying to re-elect Hill.
We'll continue to try and help you educate yourselves about candidate choices, so that you'll when you step into the booth and pull the lever, you'll know who best answers the question: "In your opinion, If Jesus was the City Manager of Dallas, would he make secret deals with gas companies and be hankering to drill on park land?"
Finally, today folks begin arriving for the national fracking conference taking place on Saturday and Sunday at the Best Western Plus Dallas Hotel & Conference Center at 8051 Lyndon B Johnson Freeway just east of Coit (map). The line-up for speakers on Sunday is particularly stellar, as we wrote about last week – three national speakers you don't get to hear in the same place on the same day very often.
And if you want the Dallas City Council to know exactly how you feel about its performance on Wednesday, you can join members of the nationally known "Light Brigade" for an evening protest on Saturday beginning at 6:30 at the hotel. These folks use LED lights to make short "freeway blogger" type messages that thousands of people end up seeing. Very effective use of new technology. Saturday's message will be "No Fracking" and they'll be close enough to LBJ to make an impact. You can learn more about them here at their Facebook page.
What Wednesday made clear is that we have a lot of work left to do, and that this is now a defining moment in Dallas civic history. We have the power to shape it, but we all must now commit to not only talking the talk, but walking the walk – block by block.
Just as the long-running fight over gas drilling in Dallas explodes into a full-fledged City Hall scandal, here comes a national fracking conference to spotlight how the rush to drill can create more problems than it solves.
On Saturday March 2nd, and Sunday March 3rd, DFW residents have a great opportunity to take a break in the fight and see superstars of the citizens movement in person when the "Stop the Frack Attack" conference settles in for a two-day run at the Best Western Plus Dallas Hotel & Conference Center at 8051 Lyndon B Johnson Freeway just east of Coit (map).
You can look at a full schedule of speakers and workshops here, but there are some events that stand out:
SUNDAY, MARCH 3rd
9:00 am – 9:45 am: Morning Plenary: "Health Impacts of Fracking" with Wilma Subra and Nadia Steinzor. Dr. Subra was a 1999 MacArthur "genius" award winner for helping “ordinary citizens understand, cope with and combat environmental issues.” She's one of the leading scientific voices in the grassroots environmental health movement. Nadia Steinzor is the Marcellus Shale organizer for national group Earthworks. You you only see one presentation, you might want to make it this one.
SUNDAY, MARCH 3rd
2:50 pm -3:45 pm : "Connecting Fracking, Climate Change, and Clean Energy" with Dr. Tony Ingraffea. Dr. Ingaffea was the Cornell University scientist who first called BS on the gas industry's claims of being 100% climate friendly. As his presentation points out, the mining and production of gas is not climate friendly at all and makes it a worse choice than coal in some respects.
SUNDAY, MARCH 3rd
4:15 pm – 5:30 pm: Closing Plenary with Deborah Rogers.
Deborah Rogers is a Ft. Worth based economic analyst whose own family property was put under siege by fracking in Cowtown. She just released a new report on the "bubble economics" of the gas industry and will close out the weekend with a presentation on the real economics behind the shale boom.
You don't get to see these three headliners at the same gig very often outside of either coast, so take advantage of them showing up at your front door just as we're about to start another chapter in the Dallas Drilling Scandal, with a City Plan Commission vote scheduled for March 21st. Be prepared.
Besides these great speakers, there are also lots of workshops:
Community Organizing & Leadership Development
Pipelines, Compressor Stations and Other Infrastructure
Nonviolent Direct Action
A full two days. Nationally-known speakers. A bunch of workshops where you'll learn the things you need to know and meet people like yourself. All for only $50 bucks – and that includes lunch both days. Register here now. See you there.
(Dallas)—In the latest twist over the ordeal of what to do with old gas leases in Dallas, citizens have accused the Mayor’s appointee to the City Plan Commission of taking actions that may have resulted in a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act while trying to reverse a denial of gas drilling permits for the last of those leases.
A group of four individuals representing themselves and various citizen and environmental organizations filed an official complaint with the District Attorney’s office alleging that CPC Chair Joe Alcantar individually lobbied Plan Commissioners over the phone prior to the CPC’s January 10th meeting in order to win a rare “reconsideration” vote to grant permits for Trinity East’s three controversial gas drilling and production sites in Northwest Dallas.
Lawyers familiar with the statute say if that’s what happened, it could be a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act known as “daisy-chaining.” Not only would the January 10th reconsideration vote itself be illegal, but any action resulting from that vote – like Thursday’s scheduled public hearing on the reconsideration – could also be illegal.
In a letter to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, City Manager Mary Suhm and City Attorney Tom Perkins, the group referred to the complaint, noting that at least three different Commissioners had independently confirmed that Mr. Alcantar, appointed by the Mayor, systematically called each of them to lobby for the favorable reconsideration vote.
“In this instance, we believe there’s a prima facie case that Mr. Alcantar met (via telephone) with members of the Plan Commission in number more than a quorum to discuss public business in private, the letter reads. “We believe this may constitute a criminal violation of the Open Meetings Act.”
The letter asks Mayor Rawlings to join the group in requesting a full investigation by the District Attorney’s office of the circumstances surrounding the January 10th vote.
“As a result of our concerns, an official complaint, enclosed, has been filed with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. We want this matter fully investigated by an objective and independent third party. We ask that you join us in that call for a full investigation by the District Attorney.”
Members of the groups said that while they don’t know for certain if illegal activity took place, the allegations fit the profile of a City Hall that’s twisting the machinery of municipal government in order to get the result it wants.
“There’s no question that someone at City Hall has been tightening the screws on the City Plan Commission,” said Jim Schermbeck of the local clean air group Downwinders at Risk. “Whether that degenerated into the criminal behavior outlined in our complaint is for the District Attorney to discover.”
Besides Schermbeck, Zac Trahan of the Texas Campaign for the Environment, Raymond Crawford of Dallas Residents for Responsible Drilling, and Marc McCord of FracDallas all signed the complaint and the letter. They also all criticized the lack of transparency that has marked Dallas City Hall’s push for gas permits.
“Ever since the original gas leases were signed in Dallas, City officials have retreated behind closed doors,” said Molly Rooke of the Dallas Sierra Club. “This is just another example of a ‘back-room deal’ that affects every Dallas resident, but that no one sees until after the fact.”
Others in the group cited recent legal backflips by the City in what to call a proposed gas processing and compressor station facility just a few hundred feet from the new Elm Fork Soccer Complex. Last year it was a processing plant that would have required a special zoning district. This year, city attorneys say it’s only routine drilling equipment.
“The City is desperately pulling out all the stops in trying to get Trinity East’s gas permits approved,” said Zac Trahan of Texas Campaign for the Environment. “They’ve taken ridiculous positions and attempted parliamentary trickery, but this time their tactics may have gone too far.
Reporters have asked why we're not naming the Commissioners who described the Chair's actions. Here's why:
We don't believe anyone but the Chair is responsible for the illegal conduct and we don't want anyone else implicated. We'll talk about what we know under oath as part of an official investigation. If individual Commissioners want to speak to reporters on their own, that's their business, but we're not going to drag them into this just for publicity's sake.
Thursday, 1:00 pm
6th Floor Dallas City Hall, City Council Chambers
When the Dallas Plan Commission held its January 10th vote to "reconsider" the denial of gas permits to Trinity East, it didn't allow any public testimony at all about the dangers posed by these proposed drilling and production sites.
Tomorrow it will. And we need you to come and add your body and your voice to this fight.
When the Mayor and City Manager first cooked up this scheme to ram through the last three gas permits in Dallas, they didn't expect to have any roadblocks. They scheduled a meeting five days before Christmas and thought they had it locked up.
They were wrong. You showed up anyway and the Plan Commission voted to deny the permits based on your impassioned pleas for public health and safety.
When City Hall didn't like the results of that vote, and pulled the "reconsideration" stunt in January, 100 of you showed up on a work day to shame the CPC publicly in a meeting that received a huge amount of media coverage.
Now they're holding the second public hearing on these gas permits. We need a larger show of strength to demonstrate we're gaining momentum
We need you to personally come and tell the Plan Commission why it's a bad idea to allow drilling in floodplains and parks and build a refinery next to the city's largest soccer complex where thousands of kids will be playing every weekend.
We know it's getting tiresome, but when you show up at these meetings and hearings, you're helping us win this fight.
Slowly, but surely, your concerns and questions about these Trinity East permits are weighing them down and making it harder for them to get rammed through.
For example, because of your work, we're about to see a bi-partisan call for the Mayor to reject the refinery permit near the Elm Fork Soccer complex. That news will be announced at tomorrow's press conference starting at 1:00 pm.
There's also more in the works challenging the process the City is using to keep these "zombie" permits alive.
The tide is turning. But you have to keep showing up.
Nothing can take the place of a room full of angry citizens. Tomorrow, don't just watch history on TV or read about it the next day. Make history. Thanks.
The fight over gas drilling in Dallas is now as much a about the democratic process as it is about pollution:
– Public meetings scheduled five days before Christmas in hopes of lowering turnout
– Hiding a huge compressor station and gas processing plant that will be the 10th largest air polluter in Dallas inside a "drilling permit"
– And now, they want to steal a vote citizens won in December through "reconsideration" of that vote a tomorrow's Plan Commission meeting…without any opportunity for public comment.
But we assure you. There will be public comment.
Help us protect your rights as citizens and breathers
Join us Tomorrow
Because some things just need protesting
Thursday 1:30 pm
6th Floor City Council Chambers Dallas City Hall
And Today… you can send an instant e-mail to the Dallas City Council and the Dallas Plan Commission telling them you don't want them to "reconsider" the gas permits that were denied in December
Do this right now. Please. Thanks
Under the guise of "gas drilling," Dallas City Hall and industry are pressing for approval of a permit that would locate a gas refinery only 600 feet from the new Elm Fork soccer complex, and immediately give birth to one of the ten largest air polluters in the City of Dallas, as well as one of its most toxic.
"There's a huge toxic Trojan Horse hiding in what the City and Trinity East describe as just a gas drilling permit," charged clean air activist Jim Schermbeck of Downwinders at Risk. "In fact, the Elm Fork permit allows for the building of a gas refinery that houses at least three giant compressors as well as an entire acid gas removal unit that strips off hydrogen sulfide, one of the most dangerous substances in the gas patch."
A motion to "reconsider" the Dallas City Plan Commission's 7-5 December 20th rejection of the Elm Fork permit and two other Trinity East gas sites is being advocated by CPC Chair and Mayoral appointee Joe Alcantar at this Thursday's meeting. If successful, the "reconsideration" would require the CPC to hold a second hearing and re-vote on the permits less than a month after denying them.
Opponents say the move is an act of desperation on the part of the Mayor and City Manager to protect a secret deal that was made between the City and Trinity East when the company first paid for mineral rights leases on city owned land. In interviews, the Mayor himself has said that a "deal was cut." Residents say the public was left out of that deal.
But after making calls to City Hall, Schermbeck is convinced that no one in Dallas city government is aware that the "gas drilling permit" being proposed by Trinity East is actually a permit to build a large gas refinery in the Trinity River floodplains.
"They're in way over their heads. City attorneys are still describing this as a drilling permit, but that's not what takes up most of the acreage on this site – it's all about the refinery."
During the December 20th City Plan Commission hearing on the permit, Trinity East representatives stated that the three proposed compressors alone – huge locomotive sized diesel-powered engines that produce thousands of horsepower in order to move gas through pipelines – would release 25 tons of air pollution each every year for an annual total of 75 tons.
That number would immediately place the facility among the city's ten largest air polluters according to the latest state emission totals from 2010. It would join power plants, asphalt and roofing materials manufacturers, and chemical plants as one of the city's biggest "stationary sources" of pollution.
However, Schermbeck thinks Trinity is low-balling their total air pollution impacts by not including other on-site refinery sources like its battery of storage tanks and "acid gas removal" operation that's designed to strip dangerous hydrogen sulfide off of natural gas streams through a series of acid baths and heat.
Hydrogen Sulfide is a harmful and toxic compound. It is a colorless, flammable gas that can be identified by its "rotten egg" odor. This invisible gas is heavier than air, travels easily along the ground, and builds up in low-lying, confined, and poorly ventilated areas. It acts as a chemical asphyxiant through inhalation exposure and its effects are similar to cyanide and carbon monoxide, which prevent the use of oxygen.
The equipment to strip off Hydrogen Sulfide from raw gas is large, complicated and dangerous. Site plans show a 200 foot long "pipe rack" with at least 20 "point sources" or stacks, apart from the compressors, where pollution could be released into the atmosphere.
"This isn’t a facility you want near parks or kids," said Schermbeck. "Yet, the City of Dallas seeks to put it just 600 feet away from its new huge soccer complex that’s meant to attract thousands of kids for hours every week."
Such a gas facility also challenges regional smog goals. A 2012 study from the Houston Advanced Research Center found that "routine emissions from a single gas compressor station can raise ozone levels by 3 parts per billion (ppb) as far as five miles downwind, and sometimes by 10 ppb or more as far as 10 miles downwind."
The Trinity East numbers don't reflect the release of greenhouse gas pollution either, which could be enormous from a facility the size of the refinery being proposed. Gas processing plants can release 20 to 80,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year. By comparison, the entire inventory of greenhouse pollution from all Dallas industrial sources in 2005 was 25,000 tons a year.
None of this information was brought up at the December 20th CPC hearing on the Elm Fork permit because the permit request in its current form was only a couple of weeks old when it went to the CPC and the compressors were a last-minute addition to an older, pending request.
Citizens were lucky to get a crowd to even show up five days prior to Christmas, and Schermbeck believes no one at Dallas City Hall bothered to notice that one of the so-called drilling permits was a refinery permit.
"Because it had no expertise of its own, and it was ignoring citizens, City Hall was completely reliant on the company's version of what the permit was for, and Trinity East probably didn't want to admit they were stuffing one kind of permit inside of another. The City didn't perform its due diligence. The result is that it's been completely played by the company."
Schermbeck recounted that he could find no one at City Hall who had any idea of how Trinity East arrived at their "25 tons a year" air pollution figure, knew what kind of specific pollutants that tonnage included, or, most importantly, thought it would be good to know this information before the city handed the company a permit to operate an inner-city gas refinery.
"Mayor Rawlings and the City Manager seem content to give Trinity East a blank check to pollute Dallas air," he said.
A closer look at the refinery site plans also reveals equipment that is fundamentally at odds with the way Trinity East and the gas industry has been portraying what kind of gas Dallas has underneath it.
Up to now, gas operators have been saying Dallas gas is "dry" and without a lot of extra hydrocarbons found in "wet gas" further west. But the acid gas removal units and Glycol conductors proposed for the Elm Fork refinery are built for wet gas.
Schermbeck suggests that perhaps either the City has been mislead about the nature of the gas it owns or the nature of the Trinity East site. He theorized that instead of the Dallas refinery being built for dry Dallas gas, it might be aimed at wet gas coming from the west.
"Dallas would get none of the royalties, but all of the pollution."
Mad? Go to this link now and send an e-mail to the Dallas City Council and City Plan Commission that says you oppose these gas permits and the "reconsideration" of their denial by the Commission:
Do it Now.