Save Our Parks

Action Alert: Public Hearing on Gas Drilling in Dallas Parks

As Mayor Rawlings and the City Council struggle to decide on a new local ordinance that will govern gas drilling in Dallas, the push to drill is threatening our parks: Fracking companies have leased thousands of acres of city-owned parkland, and they want to move forward before the new ordinance is in place.

Does this look like a good place to drill?

The Dallas City Plan Commission is set to vote soon on the first proposed drilling sites! We need you to come, speak up, and help save our parks. Click here to send an email to Mayor Rawlings and the City Council.

Thursday, December 20th, 1:30 p.m.
Dallas City Hall, City Council Chambers, 6th floor
1500 Marilla, Dallas 75201

The first drilling sites up for a vote are adjacent to the proposed Elm Fork Soccer Complex, the newly renovated Luna Vista Golf Course and Elm Fork Shooting Sports. There are also hike and bike trails, horse stables and at least one school nearby. Other areas that have been leased include Crown Park and California Crossing Park.

Drilling in the River Bottom?

Is this a good place for drilling rigs, chemical storage tanks, gas compressors and pipelines?

Not only are these sites in publicly-owned parklands, but two of them are also within the 100-year floodplain. These are sensitive ecological areas, and the current city ordinance does not allow gas drilling within floodplains. This is a good restriction to keep because the combination of a toxic spill or accident and a heavy rain event could result in hazardous chemicals washing into the Trinity River. Flooding could put fracking chemical storage tanks and drilling equipment under water.

Come have your say at the public meeting! If the City Plan Commission votes to approve these drilling permits, they will go to Mayor Rawlings and the City Council for final approval. Clearly, Dallas officials should finish the new city ordinance before moving foward with any drilling. We need you to help protect our parks and the Trinity River for generations to come. Dallas is at an important crossroads, and your voice can make all the difference.

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Will Dallas Officials Throw Away Years of Work on New Ordinance?

Have Mayor Rawlings and the Dallas City Council made a decision to move ahead with existing, pending and even new gas drilling applications without taking any action on the new “fracking” ordinance that has been in the works since 2010?

Two weeks ago, Exxon-owned gas company XTO filed a new gas drilling application—because their previous bid to drill at Hensley Field was denied by the Dallas City Plan Commission two years ago. Then the City Council appointed a special Gas Drilling Task Force, whose members met every week for eight months to consider proposals for a new ordinance. They finished their work in February of this year and issued their official recommendations, yet the City Council has not even begun drafting a new ordinance. The only rumored exception: City officials may consider simply changing the existing ordinance to allow fracking in floodplains, which would be necessary for gas company Trinity East to move ahead with its plans to drill in floodplain areas along the Trinity River. Neighborhood groups and environmental advocates say that’s unacceptable.

“This is the largest retreat of leadership that I can ever remember on such an important public health and environmental issue,” said Jim Schermbeck, Downwinders at Risk. “After three years of citizen complaints, a task force created, convened and concluded, expert and public testimony, and all Dallas residents get is a pair of shrugged shoulders from Mayor Rawlings and the Council? It’s a bad joke.”

There have been several major scientific studies surrounding the risks of fracking since Dallas officials began debating the new ordinance. Community leaders worry that new evidence pointing to health and safety risks for residents living near drilling sites will simply be ignored.

“So what if there’s a 66% higher cancer risk within a half mile of a gas well; so what if already bad Dallas smog is made worse; so what if we still have no idea what chemicals will be used for fracking in Dallas,” said Claudia Meyer of the Mountain Creek Neighborhood Alliance. “It’s as if the Mayor and Council are closing their eyes, plugging their ears, and desperately hoping to make all these new facts go away by just pretending they never happened.”

The new drilling applications leave Dallas officials exactly where they started, with the City Plan Commission being asked to shoulder the responsibility of deciding on whether to allow fracking to go forward. Advocates say the Commission should decline this offer and let the City Council do what it said it was going to do: Draft and pass a new gas drilling ordinance first.

“If we were only going to end up where we started, what was the point of a task force, or public hearings or anything that’s happened since permitting stopped because the City wanted a new drilling ordinance,” said Zac Trahan with Texas Campaign for the Environment. “This is complete and utter dereliction of duty and public trust by the elected officials of this city on one of the most important public health and environmental questions to face Dallas in decades.”

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Don’t Frack Our Fairway

This year the City of Dallas invested $4.8 million in renovations to the L.B. Houston Golf Course, which is on municipal parkland along the Trinity River. The course will be officially re-opened this weekend as “Luna Vista,” with a Friday ribbon cutting ceremony and a Saturday tournament. Here’s an article with pictures of the new course.

Unfortunately, thousands of acres of parklands have been leased for drilling, including three sites at the Luna Vista Golf Course. One is adjacent to the driving range! The City Council is considering an ordinance that could allow gas drilling at Luna Vista and on other parklands. Click here to send a message to Mayor Rawlings and the City Council now: Don’t frack our fairway!

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Don’t Frack My Park Day

This Saturday, October 6th is “It’s My Park Day”: a city-sponsored event happening from 8AM-12PM at all city parks. Hundreds of volunteers have registered to pick up litter, clear trails, celebrate and beautify Dallas’ parks. However, the City Council may soon vote to allow gas drilling on public park lands for the first time!

Dallas has a choice–we can create a world-class park system for future generations to enjoy, or we can create fields of gas wells instead. Click here to send a message to Mayor Rawlings and the City Council now: Don’t frack our parks.

All Areas in Black Hatching Have Been Leased for Gas Drilling

This map produced by City of Dallas staff members shows that huge swaths of park lands have been leased to a company (Trinity East) which uses hydraulic fracturing to drill for natural gas. Most of the land is along the Trinity River, and two city parks in northwest Dallas have been leased to the gas company: Crown Park, home to baseball and soccer fields, and the area of the proposed Elm Fork Athletic Complex. The City Council may vote soon on a new ordinance to govern gas drilling operations within Dallas, and one of the most controversial issues facing Mayor Rawlings and the City Council is whether to allow fracking on park lands for the first time.

Send you message today: Don’t frack our parks!

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Can’t-Miss Community Meeting

The League of Women Voters is holding a community meeting on gas drilling this week that you won’t want to miss! Moderated by B.J. Austin of KERA Dallas, this panel discussion will feature Dr. Eduardo Olaguer, Director of Air Quality Research at the Houston Advanced Research Center, and author of a new study showing that gas industry emissions are significantly increasing smog pollution levels in D/FW. Come to the presentation, bring a friend, spread the word.

Thursday, September 13th, 7:00pm
Northaven United Methodist, 11211 Preston Rd, 75230 (map here)

Click here to download a flier you can send to a friend.

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Sending a Message

To everyone who came to City Hall yesterday, helped spread the word, organized, testified: THANK YOU! Filling the City Council chambers with around 100 people, on a Wednesday during work hours, sent an unmistakable message to Mayor Rawlings and all Council members. Others have summarized the briefing better than I could, so here are a few things to read. The picture of the day came courtesy of the gas industry representative presentation: “A typical drilling site” literally adjacent to baseball fields and a church. Is the the Dallas you envision?

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Downwinders at Risk

Dallas municipal law attorney Terry Welch was coming to the end of his presentation on why the recommendations from the city’s task force should be strengthened: If we’re wrong and fracking turns out to be completely safe, then you can always come back and liberalize strict regulations. But you can’t undo the damage once drilling takes place with insufficient safeguards. Err on the side of public health and safety.

And with that, 90% of the packed room erupted into at least 60-90 seconds of continued and loud applause.

Dallas Morning News

Those skeptical of drilling thought the city task force was too soft on drilling. Dallas lawyer Terry Welch, who served on the task force but was not speaking for it, presented their case.

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins asked the question that might best sum up the job before the council. How, he asked Welch, is safety determined for a drilling operation? Would drilling at City Hall be an unsafe activity? Welch didn’t miss a beat.

“There are a lot of unsafe activities that go on at City Hall,” he said.

Dallas Observer

The dueling presentations the council and the audience heard amounted to a grim, four-hour slog through the same arguments that plagued the council-appointed gas drilling task force for months. Should the council allow drilling in the city’s parkland or floodplains? How many feet of setbacks should separate drilling operations from businesses and homes? Is fracking even safe? Who the hell knows?

We’ll keep you informed about the next steps going forward of course. But if yesterday was any indication, we’re on the right track. Now’s a great time to contact Dallas officials and send your message again.

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If You Care….. Be There

Gas drilling (“fracking”) is the most important and far-reaching environmental issue Dallas has faced in 30 years, and the debate over our new city ordinance will soon reach its conclusion. We need you to come make a statement at this important briefing at City Hall!

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Wednesday, August 1st, 1:00PM

Dallas City Hall Briefing Room
1500 Marilla, Room 6ES

This meeting will feature presentations from two speakers: One for environmental and public health protections, the other for drilling near neighborhoods and schools, in parks and along the Trinity River. The stakes are high–we need you to attend, and tell a friend. You can learn more about this important meeting here.

There will be an opportunity for some folks to speak and testify at the briefing if you register ahead of time. Please contact Zac Trahan at Texas Campaign for the Environment, 214-599-7840 or zac(at)texasenvironment(dot)org if you are able to testify in the morning or afternoon session. Speaking slots are limited, so don’t delay!

Perhaps most importantly, we need you to pass this along to friends, neighbors and anyone who might want to attend. The decisions Dallas is facing now will affect all residents for decades to come, and we must take this opportunity to speak with an organized, unified voice. Be there!

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Green Source D/FW profiles our work

Here’s a great article summarizing our work so far at Dallas Residents at Risk. Give it a read!

promotional-photo-from-drar

Last year, when the city of Dallas created a task force to provide recommendations for gas drilling rules in the city, a group of residents and environmentalists kept their eye on developments.

“We had a shadow task force watching what the task force was doing,” said Zac Trahan, program director of Texas Campaign for the Environment’s Dallas office and spokesperson for Dallas Residents at Risk.

The city’s committee finalized their recommendations for a gas drilling ordinance in late February. Those who had been following the proceedings on both sides of the issue had mixed reactions to the results, said Trahan.

“Some of [the recommendations] were very good. Some were too weak,” said Trahan.

In response, the activists regrouped and began holding their own meetings at Trahan’s Dallas office. The result is a watchdog supergroup that includes veteran environmental organizations, such as Downwinders at Risk and the Dallas Sierra Club, along with area neighborhoods associations across the city. They dubbed themselves Dallas Residents at Risk.

We’re still holding strategy session meetings every Tuesday evening at 6 PM here at Texas Campaign for the Environment: 3303 Lee Pkwy #402, 75219. You’re welcome to attend anytime. The next big meeting at City Hall is coming up on Wednesday, August 1st at 1PM, and for this one, we need everyone to come. Here’s the information–if you care, be there!

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July 16, 2012 · 2:52 pm

$2 billion in road repair costs — so far

Although it’s not exactly news to people living in the shadow of gas drilling operations in North Texas, today there were several articles in the Ft. Worth Star Telegram and other local papers in drilling hotspots: Fracking means lots and lots of huge trucks driving all over the place, and in a few short years gas companies have caused $2 BILLION in damages to roads in Texas. And that’s not even counting all of our roads.

Paul Mosely, Ft. Star Telegram

The Texas Department of Transportation told industry representatives and elected officials Monday that repairing roads damaged by drilling activity to bring them up to standard would “conservatively” cost $1 billion for farm-to-market roads and another $1 billion for local roads. And that doesn’t include the costs of maintaining interstate and state highways.

“Right now there’s not a dedicated revenue source,” John Barton, the department’s deputy executive director, told the Star-Telegram after a task force meeting about the problem. “We need $2 billion, and the shortfall is $2 billion.”

Add this to the list of issues Dallas officials will need to consider when they vote to adopt a new gas drilling ordinance to govern fracking within the city. It’s not just a few semi trucks here and there, either, according the Dallas Morning News:

It takes an estimated 1,200 loaded trucks needed to bring one gas well into production, according to the Department of Transportation. That’s about the equivalent of 8 million cars driving on the roadways.

So, something like 15,000 fracking wells have been drilled in North Texas, at the equivalent of 8 million cars each–that means in terms of damage done to asphalt, fracking has added the equivalent of a staggering 120 billion cars to the roadways. Unreal. This is indeed a huge industry, certainly not “just a few gas wells”.

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Waste-disposal wells from gas drilling linked to North Texas quakes

Yet another article, this one from Saturday’s Dallas Morning News, confirming what was once considered “crazy talk”: Gas drilling waste water injection wells are in fact causing earthquakes in North Texas. The Gas Drilling Task Force has recommended keeping these toxic injection wells out of Dallas, but some City Council members are still advocating for their use inside our city limits. Maybe they still don’t believe in scientific evidence? It wouldn’t be the first time….

North Texas historically has been a sleepy backwater for earthquakes. But as the region has converted into a natural-gas frontier, things have gotten shakier. People in Johnson County felt new evidence of the trend early Friday. The U.S. Geological Survey said a 3.1-magnitude quake hit at 2:02 a.m. about 11 miles north-northeast of Cleburne and was felt as far away as Plano and Denton. The agency said the quake occurred 3.1 miles below ground.

Scientists said Friday that they think they know why North Texas is seeing more quakes……. A National Research Council panel said the increased earthquake risk probably comes from injecting large amounts of gas drilling waste water underground for disposal.

The Barnett Shale, which stretches from Dallas County to the west past Fort Worth, has nearly 20,000 natural-gas production wells. Almost all were drilled in the past five years. But the region has only about 100 waste injection wells. Scientists have tied the timing and locations of earthquakes to the injection wells.

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