Gas Drilling Taskforce Invites Public Comment Tues. Aug. 2

If you would like to have your voice heard on the issue of gas drilling in Dallas, now is your opportunity to speak before the City of Dallas’ Gas Drilling Taskforce:

Tuesday, August 2
7pm
Dallas City Hall
1500 Marilla St.

L1 Conference Room (the sub-level near the parking garage)

You don’t have to sign up beforehand to speak, so please plan to attend!

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Council Approves Gas Drilling Taskforce Members

Yesterday, the Dallas City Council approved the members of the city’s gas drilling taskforce, which will evaluate the environmental and safety concerns related to urban gas drilling and craft an ordinance to recommend to the Council.

Six months ago, it didn’t look like we were going to get a taskforce.  Luckily, after some discussion and persuasion, the Council agreed that a taskforce was necessary.  So after debate, we agreed on the composition:

  • 3 subject-matter experts;
  • 3 environmentalists OR citizens affected by the issue;
  • 3 representatives of the industry OR people with experience working in the industry such as oil & gas attorneys;
  • 1 chair (former councilmember Lois Finkelman);
  • 1 Park Board representative (unfortunately, much of the public land leased for gas drilling is parkland)

The selection committee was chaired by Linda Koop and included councilmembers Neumann, Natinsky, Medrano, Davis, Kadane, Margolin, and me.

Councilmember Koop did a great job ensuring the application and selection process was open and transparent — posting the application online and encouraging the public to apply (as opposed to a closed process where interviewees had to be nominated by councilmembers).

A little over a month ago, we had an open call for applications.  After receiving 68 applications, we narrowed down the field to 18 interviews.  At the request of then-councilmember-elect Scott Griggs and Councilmember Delia Jasso, we added John McCall, an Oak Cliff resident, to the list of interviewees, making it 19.

After interviewing everyone, each councilmember voted for their nine picks, and that was tallied to get the nine taskforce members.  There was a tie for one of the environmental/citizen positions (Louis McBee and John McCall), and at Scott Griggs’ request we selected John McCall.

Finally, the council had to vote to approve the taskforce.  The vote was originally scheduled for our last voting meeting of the council term (last week), but at the request of then-councilmember-elect Scott Griggs, we moved the vote to our Inaugural meeting so that he could participate.

Yesterday the Council voted to approve the recommendation of the selection committee.

Councilmember Griggs had proposed adding a person from the Mountain Creek area since it is most affected by this issue due to its place above the Barnett Shale natural gas formation.

I agree with that sentiment, and wish it had been made earlier in the process so they could have been included in our original 9-member selection rather than added as a proposed 10th at the end.  Unfortunately, there were not enough votes on the council to add only one person.  If we had added another citizen/environmentalist, the majority of the council also wanted to add another industry representative (“for balance”).  The selected taskforce is very well-balanced and isn’t too industry-heavy, and if we began deviating from the selection process that the council had agreed on for several months, we risked a pro-industry taskforce.

In the end, I’m very pleased with the members on the taskforce.  They are:

SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS

  • Former Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher, who now servers as executive director of Texas Business for Clean Air (they fought the region’s coal plants)
  • Terry Welch, an attorney who advises cities in drafting strong gas drilling ordinances
  • Dr. David Sterling, chairman of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of North Texas Health Science Center

BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY REPS

  • Professor Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University
  • David Biegler, chairman and CEO of Southcross Energy Group
  • Pat Shaw, an oil and gas attorney who has represented both landowners and gas drillers in crafting gas leases

ENVIRONMENTALISTS/CITIZENS

  • Cherelle Blazer, a Yale-educated scientist and director of the environmental group You Can’t Live in the Woods
  • John McCall, an Oak Cliff attorney and past president of the Oak Cliff Conservation League
  • Ramon Alvarez, a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund

Apply to Serve on Gas Drilling Task Force

If you are interested in helping shape Dallas’ policies and regulations regarding gas drilling, please apply to serve on the city’s gas drilling taskforce.  Here’s the info from City Hall:

The City of Dallas is seeking individuals to serve on the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force, which will propose revisions to the City’s gas drilling ordinance.  Applicants are needed for the following positions:

  • Three experts in environmental impact studies, air quality, water quality, and/or soil contamination issues in relation to oil and gas drilling. Examples include professors, environmental attorneys, environmental consultants and land use/zoning attorneys
  • Three industry/business representatives. Examples include gas drilling company representatives with a presence in the Barnett Shale and/or persons who have implemented “best practices”, such as oil and gas attorneys
  • Three citizens and/or environmental group representatives

Task force applicants must be willing to meet on at least eight Tuesday afternoons from 2:00 to 4:00 from July through October. Two meetings will include public hearings that may be in the evening hours.

You can fill out the application online, and it’s due by 5 p.m. Monday, May 23.  The council will interview potential candidates in early June.

Dallas Sierra Club and Dallas Area Residents for Responsible Drilling Endorse Angela

I am proud to announce that I just received the endorsement of two important environmental groups here in Dallas! The Dallas Sierra Club and Dallas Area Residents for Responsible Drilling:

Known to many as probably the smartest member of the city council, she has continued to ask the right questions and taken stands where others were too nervous or watching the polling stats to do so.

…In the final analysis, we need more leaders in city hall like Angela Hunt who are willing to ask the hard, intelligent questions and not to be afraid of losing votes from the residents or financial support from those outside of their districts.

…We applaud her ‘no guts no glory’ approach to civic government and look forward to having her on the city council for another term.  [Read more…]

Many thanks to both Dallas Sierra Club and DARRD for their recognition of my commitment to our environment!

Dallas City Council Unanimously Approves Gas Drilling Taskforce

After working on this issue for several months, I am proud to report that yesterday the Dallas City Council unanimously approved the creation of a gas drilling taskforce.

In February, I sent a memo to my colleagues proposing that we create a taskforce to revise Dallas’ gas drilling ordinance to ensure our residents and environment are protected from any dangers that may be posed by urban gas drilling. I worked with several councilmembers to get this important issue in front of the council yesterday, and the entire council embraced the idea.

I am pleased that we were able to achieve overwhelming consensus on this issue and thank my colleagues for their support!

Dallas Morning News Editorial on Fracking Taskforce

The Dallas Morning News has an editorial in today’s paper supporting the formation of a City of Dallas gas drilling taskforce:

Dallas residents should take special note of a City Council briefing Wednesday about hydraulic fracturing — a process used to recover natural gas — and its potential effects on public health, the environment and property values. This briefing sets the stage for an important council decision on how to proceed with requests by at least two production companies to initiate drilling near homes and businesses in Dallas.

….Key to Wednesday’s briefing is a proposal to establish a task force, composed of industry representatives, citizens and experts, to review available data about hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” and produce recommendations on next steps. Not only should the council approve the task force’s formation, but it should also hold off on issuing drilling permits until the task force has performed its work.

….Council members Angela Hunt and Linda Koop, along with the city staff, deserve a lot of credit for getting the task force effort rolling and making sure it receives the council’s full attention.

Council to Consider Gas Drilling Taskforce on Wednesday

In late February, I outlined to my council colleagues a proposal to create a gas drilling taskforce that would evaluate the environmental, health, and safety effects of gas drilling and propose changes to Dallas’ gas drilling ordinance.  Today, Councilman Neumann and I sent a joint letter to our council colleagues encouraging them to support such a taskforce, among several alternatives to be considered by the council on Wednesday.

The taskforce is largely as I had proposed with some minor changes: It will include three oil & gas experts instead of two, three environmentalists/residents (same as proposed), and three industry representatives OR business representatives (regional chamber/oil & gas attorneys/etc.) instead of a single oil & gas industry rep. The taskforce will include non-voting members from the regional EPA and TCEQ, as well as a representative from the Park Board (the city’s gas lease includes parkland).

It was important that the selection process be open and transparent, so we have proposed a public application process (anyone may apply) and any councilmember who requests to serve on the selection committee may do so.

This is a critical first step in ensuring Dallas citizens and our environment are protected from any risks posed by the gas drilling process and I am hopeful that my colleagues will support this effort.

You can review our letter to the council as well as’ city staff’s council briefing.