The last time the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force met in February, they voted on recommendations so bad—like fracking inside city parklands and within 500 feet of neighborhoods—they actually needed police protection during the deliberations. As the Task Force finally presented those recommendations to Mayor Rawlings and the City Council today, the only thing that changed was the crowd: What had been a small handful of activists became a filled-to-capacity hearing room with more people lined up outside than sitting down inside. Several organizers were forcibly removed yet again as they vocalized their disagreement with the idea that drilling all along the Trinity River floodplain and even inside the levees is somehow “safe and reasonable.” As it turns out, stating the obvious can get you kicked out of City Hall very quickly.
To their credit, several City Council members pushed back against the worst proposals and even started using some independent thought to come up with better ideas in a few minutes than the Task Force had conceived of in 8 months. Exchanges like this were fairly common today:
Council Member Griggs: “Did you consider the dangers fracking might pose to Dallas’ drinking water supplies?”
Task Force Chair Finkleman: “Yes, of course.”
Griggs: “Did you consider the dangers fracking chemical spills might pose to cities and communities along the Trinity River downstream from us?”
Finkleman: “No, we didn’t consider that.”
Council Member Koop: “Couldn’t the gas companies drill horizontally under the floodplain instead of setting up rigs inside the levees?”
Griggs: “What about Army Corps of Engineers warnings against drilling within 3,000 feet of dams and levees?”
Council Member Hunt: “How does the drilling proposal affect the long-term Trinity River Corridor plan?”
Finkleman: “We didn’t consider those questions.”
Council Member Caraway: “Couldn’t land intended for drilling be removed from the parks system first?”
Finkleman: “The land could be, um, restored and eventually used as a park in the future.”
Mayor Rawlings: “Has any other land used for fracking been restored and re-used for recreational purposes elsewhere in D/FW?”
Finkleman: “Not that I’m aware of, no.”
Griggs: “Let’s face it. Once we drill, we’re never going to put a soccer field there. We’re never going to put a swimming pool there.”
Unfortunately, some of the other Council Members fantasized about drilling royalties replacing billions of dollars of tax revenue and improving quality of life in Dallas—as if you can just go out and buy that at the mall. Some seemed convinced that fracking is perfectly safe and that it is going to be allowed in Dallas, regardless of what the pesky residents want. But neighborhood groups representing close to 180 homeowners associations all over the city have endorsed our “five protections” position. The gas-masked protesters were the lead story on the 6 o’clock news tonight. Democracy is on the march, and the police can’t evict us from the streets.
Mayor Rawlings announced that there will be two more briefings before the City Council takes any votes, so we’ll see you all at City Hall again in the near future. You’ll get the schedule as soon as we do. Stay tuned for more interruptions of your normally scheduled programming.