In this week’s Dallas Observer, Jim Schutze has an excellent article about gas drilling in Dallas and the need for a citizen taskforce: “Maybe City Council Should Have Asked Some Questions Before Taking Drillers’ Money.”
In 2008 the city council voted to award gas drilling leases on city-owned land to two energy companies.
Wait. Let me go over this again.
This is before the city knows squat about hydraulic fracturing or fracking, as the drilling technique in this area is called. This is before they even devise a safety plan of any kind to deal with fires, explosions or toxic releases. This is before they even raise the question of whether fracking should be allowed inside the city on private land. They sell leases to two big energy companies to allow fracking on city-owned land.
A single council member—Hunt—voted against the leases. She told the rest of the council at the time she thought it was crazy to bind the city to this kind of obligation without doing an ounce of research.
Hunt, a lawyer, warned them it was going to come back to bite them. Why would they sign a contract obligating the city to allow gas drilling in and near neighborhoods when the council had never explored or even considered the issue of safety?
So guess where we are now. The city has accepted $30 million for the leases from those two energy companies. Now the companies want to drill. They are seeking permits for wells near neighborhoods in far west and far southwest Dallas.
What Hunt has proposed and the city council will vote on next month is a task force to look at the issues and recommend changes to the city’s drilling ordinance. Those changes might include any number of things that would reinforce public safety without denying the energy companies the right to exercise their leases.
I asked Hunt what her goals would be for the task force she has proposed. “First and foremost,” she said, “it’s to protect our neighborhoods. We need to take a step back, and we need to look at the environmental issues associated with fracking. What is the current science on the safety of fracking? And go from there.”
She does make sense. But that is also why she is often in the minority on our current city council.