Gets a lot of things right, but also leaves out a lot, like floodplains, air pollution, compressor stations, and full disclosure.
The next City Plan Commission meeting on the drafting of the new ordinance is at 9 am,Thursday July 11th at Dallas City Hall in 5ES on the fifth floor. They're due to talk about operational conditions, i.e., hours, dust, noise, chemical disclosures, landscaping, monitoting an baseline testing.
Seems like a good time to mention that you can send the City Plan Commission a quick e-mail about what the new gas ordinance should contain by going to our "Featured Citizen Action of the Week."
Rebuking city attorneys, the Dallas City Plan Commission agreed on Thursday to require 1500 foot setbacks, or buffer zones from gas wells to "protected uses" such as homes, businesses, hospitals, schools, recreation areas, and parks. A waiver to get as close as 1000 feet would have to come with a three-fourths vote by the City Council. No well could be closer than 1000 feet.
City staff was pushing hard to retain the 2012 gas task force recommendations of 1000 feet, with a waiver to as close as 500 feet, something even the Dallas Morning News said was unacceptable. Those less-protective distances are seen as a way to get the twice-rejected Trinity East permits approved under a new ordinance.
Plan commission members also agreed to include more kinds of businesses in the protected use category, such as laundry services and vehicle pool operations, somewhat erasing the blue collar/white collar double-standard of protection sanctioned by the task force.
Left pending, and full of skullduggery potential for city attorneys, is where to begin and end that 1500 feet. Most citizens would probably go from property line to property line to ensure the entire protection of the "protected use." But city attorneys want to begin at the well bore hole itself and go to the "structure" of the protected use – not your front yard, but your front door; not the soccer field itself, but the recreation center next to it. This will be the next big battle over how to define these setbacks.
Also left pending were what, if any, exceptions for park drilling there should be in the new ordinance. Even more important to the Trinity East permits than the residential setback requirement is the current prohibition on drilling in parks. Here, city staff also was lobbying very, very hard to retain the special loophole for the Trinity East permits the task force abruptly voted to make at their very last meeting and without any public comment. Preservation of this loophole – you can drill on "unused" park land despite there being no legal definition supporting that term – means that Trinity East would have a fighting chance to come back and re-file.
Although seemingly rejecting the task force recommendations, Plan Commission members still expressed desire to carve out some kinds of exceptions for park land that was perhaps not publicly or readily accessible, but had trouble articulating the definition of "unused." Under the law, park land is park land; there is no A to F park grading system. That's why the easiest and most protetive thing to do is ban drilling from parks all together.
The devil will be in the details, but in the first real test vote for a more protective gas drilling ordinance, citizens won. And it drove city attorney Tammy Palomino crazy. As Plan Commission members got more and more independent over the course of the two-hour briefing, you expected her to start reaching for the cattle prod. After calling for a reconsideration not once, not twice, but three times after she got beat bad on the vote for the 15000 ft setback she announced that staff would return at the next meeting with a "presentation" on the 1500 foot setback. No doubt it will focus entirely on why it's a bad idea for all kinds of reasons other than it'll make it harder for Trinity East to get their permits.
Make no mistake, the City Manager's office, through staff like Palomino, is still fighting on behalf of those Trinity East permits, and the permits she expects to come after those. She's trying to minimize the number of protected uses and the spaces between them and your house, school or playground.
If you want to fight back but can't show up in person to tell the Commission what you think, please consider sending a qucik click N send e-mail message to the members via our "Featured Action of the Week."
The Plan Commission will be getting briefings from staff on different parts of the new ordinance every two weeks throughout the summer (July 11 and 25 August 8 and 22) with at least one or two public hearings on the finished product after that. All meetings begin at 9 am and are conducted at Room 5ES on the fifth floor of Dallas City Hall downtown. The next meeting is supposed to focus on the operations of a well site, i.e. hours of operation, noise, dust, plus the all-important landscaping requirements. Stay tuned.
Mary Suhm’s Revenge:
Pretending Last 7 Months of Public Outrage Didn’t Happen,City Staff Writing New Gas Drilling Ordinance Allowing Twice-Denied Trinity East Permits To Get Approved
(Dallas)—Citing what they say is a blatant disregard for the consensus that’s formed after intense public debate, homeowner and environmental groups accused city officials of drafting a new gas drilling ordinance that would allow permitting of the same Trinity East sites that have already been voted down twice in the last seven months.
“It’s clear that Mary Suhm and Mayor Rawlings are still trying to get that Trinity East deal cut,” said Mountain Creek Neighborhood Alliance member Claudia Meyer. “Having failed to overcome citizen opposition to drilling in parks, flood plains and neighborhoods, not once, but twice, the City Manager and Mayor are now proposing an ordinance that pretends none of that opposition took place and allows drilling near where people live, work and play.”
On Thursday morning, city staff will begin to brief the City Plan Commission on the process of updating the current version of the gas drilling ordinance, passed in 2007. It will take at least several months for the commission to work through a full revision. City Attorneys are expected to rely exclusively on the 2011-2012 Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force recommendations as the basis of a new ordinance. These recommendations are now almost a year-and-a-half old and the source of growing controversy because of their suspected link to the secret deal negotiated between Suhm and Trinity East revealed publicly for the first time this year.
In its initial deliberations, the Task Force recommended a 1000-foot setback and a ban on park drilling. But then city staff briefed the Task Force, explaining how these recommendations would essentially prohibit the permitting of the pending Trinity East sites. A week later, during its final meeting, the Task Force voted to reverse the park land recommendation and weaken the setback requirement. Some Task Force members were absent, and there was no public warning or opportunity for comment. Meyer and other critics say it’s now clear that the rollback was to protect the then-still secret deal. “That’s why Dallas City Hall wants to start with the Task Force recommendations: they were re-written to make sure Trinity East got its permits.”
Coming almost a full year before the Mayor’s decision to try and push the Trinity East permits through, the final Task Force recommendations were never the subject of any public hearing. Instead, the fight over the Trinity East permits became a proxy public fight over the shape of a new Dallas ordinance, with residents winning denials in December and February. “If one thing is clear from the last seven months of debate, it’s that Dallas residents don’t want drilling in parks, flood plains or near people. But the very places that were rejected as inappropriate by the public and the City Plan Commission for the Trinity East sites are now the same ones being recommended by city staff,” said Zac Trahan of the Texas Campaign for the Environment.
To avoid depending on City Council “supermajorities” of 12 or more to overcome permit denials by the Plan Commission, Trahan predicted that Trinity East would seek a slight alteration for one its proposed sites to submit a new application under the resulting new, more permit-friendly rules. “If this kind of ordinance is passed, despite everything that’s happened over the last seven months, we expect Trinity East to seek permits to drill in Dallas parks and floodplains. That’s why we’re sounding the alarm now, at the beginning of this end-run. Residents won the first two times. Third time’s the charm.”
What: City of Dallas staff briefing to City Plan Commission on new gas drilling ordinance
When: Thursday, June 20th 9:00 a.m.
Where: Dallas City Hall 5ES
At Issue: Will the most important Dallas environmental victory in 20 years be sabotaged by City Hall?
With the election of Philp Kingston and Rick Callihan, the new edition of the Dallas City Council is complete. The good news is that the last six months of hand-to-hand civil combat over the Trinity East gas permits seems to have paid-off in expanding the number of gas drilling opponents to at least six members
The bad news is that hard-core supporters still retain seven seats, with two new members hard to read given their campaign answers.
Mayor Mike Rawlings
Rick Callihan (new)
Philip Kingston (new)
Adam Medrano (new)
Lee Kleinman (new)
Kleinman's DMN questionnaire answer: "I will not take a position at this time because the issue is far to complex to evaluate in the midst of a campaign. The Task force spent 9 months on this issue and I personally know and respect a number of its members. The Council has yet to adopt its recommendations and it will take a much deeper study of the facts before I can take a formal position."
DMN campaign debate coverage: "(He didn't take) firm positions on hydraulic fracturing in Dallas, but said drilling probably shouldn’t occur around residential areas or kids’ soccer fields."
Jennifer Stabach-Gates (new)
Stabach-Gates' Dallas Real Estae News questionnaire answer: "I am opposed to fracking in neighborhoods or near public spaces. There are limited areas in Dallas where fracking would be considered, and these should be addressed on a case by case basis. But as a rule, I will always place a higher priority on protecting neighborhoods and the health of our residents."
Hard to tell when the first vote to test these categories will occur. Officially, the council has yet to take a vote on the Trinity East permits. But rumor has it that the City Plan Commission will be getting briefed by Mary Suhm's legal staff on what a new drilling ordinance should look like this coming Thursday at City Hall, so maybe we won't have to wait that long to see how much the same or different this council is from the last when it comes to the most important environmental fight in Dallas in the last 20 years.
On Thursday, Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm announced that she was resigning. Just about every news account of her announcement connected it to a series of missteps over the last several years, most prominently, the February disclosure by the Dallas Observer that she had signed a previously unknown agreement with Trinity East promising to work with the company to overturn current policy and help secure permits to drill for gas in city parks.
Although superficially dealt with by an official airing in front of the Council where most members forfeited their roles as keepers of the public trust, the issue kept floating to the top of any discussion about not only the Trinity East permits, but the general issue of gas drilling in Dallas. Every City Council race questionnaire this election cycle had queries about not only the specific permits, but also about the performance of the City Manager in wrestling with the scandal. This wasn't going away.
Suhm had what she believed was a plausible public explanation for how she made an honest mistake in misleading the Council over the agreement….for five years. What was always lacking was an explanation for why she continued to lie to Dallas residents about it for that long. Not one word of any defense of her focused on why it was wrong for a city official to align herself against citizens fighting irresponsible drilling and not tell them about that alignment as the entire city went through a multi-year reassessment of urban drilling, first with a moratorium on new permits, then a gas drilling task force, then the permitting process for the Trinity East permits themselves.
instead she directed city staff to distort the system to enable illegal permits to appear legal. Zoning classifications appeared or disappeared depending on the forum. One-off exemptions were carved out as necessary. Park drilling? Perfectly fine under these "special" set of circumstances. Flood plain drilling? No problem either. Anything to make these square pegs fit in otherwise round holes.
Common decency and allegiance to democratic principles demands that she should have publicly disclosed the agreement with Trinity East the minute a review of current city drilling policy began. She did not. When it was involuntarily disclosed for her by the Observer, she looked exactly like the co-conspirator she was.
There's no question that the fight citizens' groups have waged against the Trinity East permits led directly to the disclosure of the agreement. Based solely on circumstantial evidence, it was clear that there was some kind of unpublicized deal that had been "cut" between City Hall and Trinity East. Looking for it became the political equivalent of looking for Dark Matter in the Universe. Everything happening pointed to its existence, but you couldn't actually see the thing itself.
But here's the punch line. Citizens only started to look for that deal after Suhm and the Mayor decided to fast-track the Trinity East permits in late November. It was that decision, made without any warning to the residents that had been involved in the drilling fight, and abruptly ending a year-plus long moratorium on new gas permits, that re-energized opposition and led to Suhm's resignation only six months later. Suhm fracked herself the minute she began to plot with the Mayor to undercut due process and try to pull a fast one on citizens. If they hadn't been in such a clumsy rush to get the Trinity East permits approved, none of this would have happened like it did.
Last week's municipal elections solidified a slightly more independent Dallas City Council, with new and re-elected members who openly oppose the Mayor's pro-drilling stance. Trinity East's permits, which needed a Council super-majority to be approved, look to be doomed. Rawlings' own political future is clouded – how many North Texas mayors have unpopular proposed refineries named after them? The landscape of city politics has changed over the last six months. Citizens fighting City Hall did that. But it was City Hall itself who set it in motion.
Thanks to everyone who turned out last Thursday for the (abbreviated) public hearing on the Trinity East "zombie" gas permits before the City Plan Commission. Our apologies to those of you who were not allowed to speak by the arbitrary too-soon ending of the hearing. It was one more example of a process gone off the rails when it comes to these permits.
It's now clear that what began as a neighborhood-based effort to fight off irresponsible urban gas drilling three years ago has now grown into not only a turning point for the entire Dallas environmental movement, but as of last week, into the largest Dallas City Hall scandal in years as well. There are suddenly lots of moving parts. Here's a quick summary of what we know as of today.
On Thursday morning, the Dallas Observer broke the story that in 2008 Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm signed a secret side agreement with Trinity East that essentially turned City Hall into a lobbying machine for the company's gas permits. The first impact of that lobbying was a reversal of the no drill policy in Dallas parks. Only six months after city staff had told the Council and Park Board there would be no surface drilling in Dallas parks allowed, the side agreement Suhm negotiated with Trinity East assured the company that she and her staff were "reasonably confident" they could win permission to drill in parks for the company.
Many Dallas activists have speculated about such an agreement as the only way to explain why city staff seemed to be going out of its way to push through the Trinity East permits, including abruptly re-defining the current gas ordinance on the fly, ignoring or flouting precedents, and declining to bring the usual level of official scrutiny to bear. Suhm and city attorneys kept this document from public view even after years of opposition from neighborhood groups to drilling sites, including Trinity East's. At a time when every city staffer had an obligation to wear the Trinity East agreement on their sleeves, City Hall hid the fact they were working for the company to win its permit. Dallas Councilwoman Angela Hunt has prepared a detailed timeline of Suhm's deception.
Suhm declined to talk directly to the Observer, but instead issued a statement to the Morning News that said, in essence, she was shocked, shocked that anyone could think this side agreement with Trinity was a "back room" deal. Mayor Rawlings is standing by Suhm so far, issuing a statement of support late Thursday that emphasized the "non-binding" nature of the side deal that was "cut," as the Mayor so eloquently put it back in November. The Observer's Jim Schutze had a take down of both of their official statements on Friday, saying "some stuff just won't spin."
A growing chorus of groups and individuals are calling for Suhm to resign, as are some Council members like Hunt, and Scott Griggs. Her fate now seems linked to that of the Trinity East permits, since both seem tainted beyond redemption by the disclosure of the side deal. How can any resident or Council member trust what city staff says about the permits? How can any resident or Council member trust that Suhm won't sell them out again?
Meanwhile, the Observer has raised the possibility of Open Records Act violations by the City because it's pretty sure it asked for ALL documents related to the Trinity East permits. Citizens groups and individuals that have been turning in a constant flow of Open Records Act requests for the last three to four years might also have the same gripe.
But they'd have to take a number because four people, including Downwinders Director Jim Schermbeck, Zac Trahan of the Texas Campaign for the Environment, Raymond Crawford of Dallas Residents for Responsible Drilling, and Marc McCord of frackDallas went down to the District Attorney's office and filed a criminal complaint against the City Plan Commission Chair on Wednesday, alleging a violation of the Open Meetings Act prior to the January 10th vote to "reconsider" the Commission's denial of the permits. According to the complaint, Chair Joe Alcantar called members and lobbied them to vote for reconsideration in a practice called "daisy-chaining a quorum" that is explicitly against the law. If the charge is substantiated by an investigation, all subsequent decisions about the permits by the Commission could be invalidated. That would mean reverting back to the original December denial of the permits.
On the political front, John Carona, the Republican State Senator whose district includes the Elm Fork Soccer Complex, sent a letter to Mayor Rawlings, urging him to withdraw his support for the Gas Refinery and Compressor Station proposed for only 600 feet west of the Complex. Democrat State Representative Rep. Lon Burnam of Ft. Worth sent a similar letter, further isolating the Mayor politically.
In all, quite the "goat (act of procreation)", as the Observer's Brantley Hargrove labeled the whole Trinity East controversy last month.
What happens now?
Officially, the City Plan Commission put off any (legitimate or not) vote on the permits until its March 21st meeting. They have now specifically requested the Council deal with changing the current prohibitions against parkland and floodplain drilling before they're asked again to violate the law. So theoretically, the show now moves to the whole City Council, which has scheduled a 1:00 pm Wednesday, February 27th state-mandated public hearing on the city permanently removing park land from the city park system for drilling.
This same hearing has been scheduled twice before however, only to be canceled when the City Plan Commission didn't get around to doing what the Council couldn't bring itself to do first. Up to now the Mayor's strategy was to push the permits through the Plan Commission and Park Board to provide a cover for Council approval of drilling activity in parks and flood plains that's still not allowed. Apparently there's enough resentment about that among Plan Commission members for them to toss the hot potato back to the Mayor and Council. But it does so exactly as the Suhm memo hits and makes political support for the permits more tenuous.
We'll know soon whether the February 27th City Council hearing on turning over park lands to drilling is really on or not. Stay tuned.
(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.
Public (re)-Hearing on the Last Three Dallas Gas Sites.……including the newly-discovered "Rawlings Gas Refinery"
Dallas City Hall
City Council Chambers
Press Conference followed by City Plan Commission Mtg
This is the "do-over" hearing demanded by the Mayor in order to win approval of these permits – after the first one in December resulted in denial.
Come and defend this victory or they'll steal it away from us.
Dallas Residents at Risk, the alliance of groups that we work with on this issue, will be holding a press conference at 1:00 pm – just like we did before the much-publicized January 10th reconsideration vote – and then heading into the CPC meeting at 1:30. Show up early because we'll be talking about a surprising new development in this fight and bringing you up to date with the latest information.
It's important to demonstrate that opposition to these permits is growing, so if you haven't made it down to City Hall before, Thursday is the day to come.
If you're a regular, then you know how much warm bodies in the audience mean to the moment.
They would have been no news coverage on the 10th without all of us standing up and publicly "shaming" the CPC over its "reconsideration vote" in person. You can't do that by e-mail or petition. We need you there. We need you clapping for the good guys. We need you hissing the bad guys. We need you. There is no substitute.
Looking for material for your testimony? Here are some things we know now about these sites that we didn't when the CPC turned them down in December…..
* Neither the Park Board nor City Council ever voted to allow surface drilling in parks. In fact, city staff assured the City Council in 2008 that would be NO surface drilling in parks. So where did Trinity East get the idea it could have two of its drill sites on city park land (The newly-named Luna Vista Golf Course and near-by gun range)? That's a really good question that nobody at Dallas City Hall has attempted to answer.
* One of the Trinity East sites now contains a large gas refinery and compressor station in addition to a pad site for 20 wells. This facility will become the 10th largest air polluter in Dallas the moment it comes on line, releasing 75-100 tons of air pollution every year only 600 feet away from the City's new Elm Fork Soccer Complex on Walnut Hill.
* Last September, the City of Dallas denied a new permit to a rock crushing facility near the Elm Fork Soccer Complex because its 17 tons of annual air pollution was deemed too threatening for children's health. However, five months later, the city is advocating allowing the operation of a gas refinery and compressor station that is estimated to release some 75-100 tons of air pollution a year. Why is 17 tons of air pollution a health threat but 100 tons is OK? Another great question nobody at Dallas City Hall has answered.
* Trinity East knew when it signed its leases with the City that drilling in parkland and the floodplains was prohibited. So why is the City of Dallas still saying its afraid of a lawsuit by Trinity for backing out of the deal if the permits are denied?
We can win if we keep showing up and asking questions.
Please show up this Thursday.
So hard, they engineered a "reconsideration vote" to overturn that denial, now scheduled for 1:30 pm February 7th – next Thursday.
So hard, they're flip-flopping on established positions, misrepresenting the facts, and fabricating new definitions to avoid the truth.
So hard that they're resorting to the tired and true tactic of polluters and their flunkies everywhere: "Let's Take a Tour of the Site!"
So at 8 am on Thursday morning- tomorrow – members of the Plan Commission, under heavy escort by city staff, will meet at City Hall to board buses and take a tour of the Luna Vista Golf Course drill site, the gun range site near-by, and the refinery site near the Elm Fork soccer complex just west of Walnut Hill. Interested citizens will be along as well, but city staff has told them that they may or may not be able to ride on the tour bus with CPC members and staff. Too risky we suppose – what if someone wants to challenge the staff narrative? Is such a bus ride a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act? Good question. But Dallas City Hall hasn't been in the mood lately to observe the fussy legal niceties.
But the tour does give CPC members the chance to compress all the tricks and untruths of the gas lease controversy into a nice 3-hour package. For example:
Threat of a lawsuit from Trinity East for Not Alllowing Drilling in Parks or the Flood Plain
Then: "When the city executed its lease with Trinity East, the words “park land” didn’t appear. The lease designated just five sites – none on parkland – as authorized drilling locations. Two sites that were on parkland were listed as ‘possible’ drilling sites, the same two locations now up for review. But city staff made it clear to the council that the company had no assurance that those sites would ever be available.” (Dallas Morning News, 2012).
Now: Trinity East says "prohibiting drilling and production in public parks is a complete reversal of the City's position when the leases were sold. In fact, two of the pending drill sites are on park lands (one adjacent to L.B. Houston Golf Course and one on the Gun Club). Not only were these sites advertised in the original RFP, but they were also specifically identified by city staff before the
leases were purchased. It will result in a breach of agreement. (2011 Trinity East Letter to Gas Task Force.
Surface Drilling on Park Land
Then: “There will be no drilling allowed on the surface of city of Dallas park land.” (2008 City of Dallas staff presentation to City Council)
Now: Dallas city staff say there will not only be surface drilling on city parkland allowed, but that city parkland will be permanently taken out of park use to allow for drilling. There's a February 13th hearing on doing just that scheduled by the Dallas City Council.
Refineries and Compressor Stations
Then: Under the current ordinance, compressor stations and refineries “would require a planned development district because no defined use; or must create a use in zoning districts.” (City Staff to Gas Task Force in 2012).
Now: Under the current ordinance, special zoning districts are not required for compressor stations and refineries. These are part of “normal well site production.” There is no definition of a compressor station or refinery that distinguishes it from normal well site production. (City of Dallas Staff, January 2013)
Citizens will be on the tour with fact sheets reminding the press, the CPC, and city staff themselves about these obvious contradictions. But's it up to you breathers, to remind them forcefully enough to keep the permits denied on the 7th. Keep those cards and letters coming in and be sure to show up for the CPC meeting at 1:30 pm next Thursday,