Gary Stuard of Dallas Residents at Risk speaks out against gas drilling at a Dallas City Plan Commission hearing in August. Photos: Green Source DFW

Dec. 2, 2013

Dallas gas drilling ordinance rides on mayor's vote, say environmentalists

After more than two years of discussions, hearings and heated debate, Dallas’ new gas drilling ordinance appears to be nearing its final stage. On Dec. 11, the Dallas City Council will hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. before it votes on new gas drilling rules to replace guidelines adopted in 2007. Public comments will also be allowed at this week's council meeting on Wednesday.

The updated ordinance has been a work in progress since the city appointed a
task force in June 2011 to study gas drilling and make recommendations. The Dallas City Plan Commission has given its stamp of approval on the document, which environmentalists are touting as one of the strictest ordinances around. It requires a 1,500-foot setback from businesses, homes, schools and other protected uses, the farthest among North Texas cities.

“We basically doubled the distance that other cities require,” said Jim Schermbeck, director of Downwinders at Risk after the CPC announced their recommendation in August. “That means there is less land that is available for them to drill on.” 

Anti-gas drilling protestors at a City Plan Commission hearing in January. 

Zac Trahan, director of Texas Campaign for the Environment’s Dallas office, said among the 15 council members, he’s betting on six to vote for and six against the ordinance. That leaves at least two council members, Dwaine Caraway and Jennifer Gates, along with Mayor Mike Rawlings publicly undecided, by Trahan’s estimation. 

Those council members expected to approve the ordinance include Monica Alonzo, Carolyn Davis, Sandy Greyson, Scott Griggs, Philip Kingston and Adam Medrano.

Trahan believes the mayor’s vote will sway those undecided. But Rawlings has given mixed signals.

He has said he doesn’t see a place for drilling in Dallas,” said Trahan. “He’s said he would support the CPC's efforts.” 

However, city attorneys may be pressuring the mayor to oppose the ordinance, which opponents say is too restrictive and could result in a lawsuit. Two hot button issues include the 1,500-foot setback along with the provision that companies disclose chemicals used in the drilling process.

Trahan said they don’t want to lose these victories. 

He and Dallas Residents at Riska coalition of activists, residents, environmental organizations and neighborhood groups, are mounting an all-out campaign to win the mayor’s vote.

“All we need him to do is what he said he would do,” said Trahan.

The TCE director is urging anyone who’s concerned about the risks of gas drilling to contact the mayor and the city council and urge them to pass the ordinance. He’s also asking the public to show up for the public hearing, before the vote on Dec. 11.  

“It’s critical that everyone come out to line up and testify,” said Trahan. “This is a huge, huge deal. This is the final act in a years’ long saga.” 

Anti-gas drilling activists applaud after the Dallas City Council denied drilling permits on parkland in August

He said many are watching the outcome. When this same ordinance was passed by the Plan Commission in September, the story appeared in the New York Times, he said.

“The result will reverberate thoughout the state and the country.” 

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