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Activists Ask West to Kill Bill That Would Gut Cities' Ability to Regulate Gas Drilling

Raymond Crawford and his 21-foot-long scroll of signatures unfurled at Dallas City Hall on April 20
Raymond Crawford and his 21-foot-long scroll of signatures unfurled at Dallas City Hall on April 20
Photo by Patrick Michels

Dallas anti-gas drilling activist Raymond Crawford just copied us on a letter he's sending to state Sen. Royce West today, asking him to "personally get involved [and] do whatever it takes to help stop HB3105," which is Rep. Jim Keffer's proposed legislation that would essentially neuter cities' ability to regulate oil and gas drilling. Keffer's chair of the House Committee on Energy Resources, and the legislation has some locals panicked -- not only gas activists like Crawford, but Flower Mound Mayor Melissa Northern, who said last week that "if this bill passes, all the work that our Oil and Gas Advisory Board has done during the last nine months will have been for naught because it would remove our authority over oil and gas drilling."

The committee's report was sent to the calendars committee last night, where it'll stay till the committee decides to put it on the House floor. And if there's one bit of good news for those concerned about the bill, it's that most House bills not already on the jam-packed to-do list don't have much of a chance of slipping through at this late date.

Which does little to console Crawford, who says committee member Stefani Carter -- the freshman Republican from Dallas who received close to $60,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry -- has been "shepherding this bill in committee and is determined to see that it becomes law."

Says Crawford, till now, at least, HB 3105 has been "on the fast track, and a lot of it -- like the thumper trucks we spotted earlier this week -- is doing under the radar. It's pretty scary. All the work we've accomplished in Dallas would be tossed away. They can do what they want, where they want, when they want as far as gas drilling goes."

His letter to West follows.

The Honorable Royce West

P.O. Box 12068

Capitol Station

Austin, Texas 78711

Senator West:

I am writing to express our opposition to House Bill 3105. The bill would make a city regulation that damages, destroys, impairs, or prohibits development of a mineral interest subject to the Private Real Property Rights Preservation Act (Act).

The question must be asked: Do you want gas wells next to the local school playground where your children play, or perhaps in your backyard? The passage of HB3105 could result in exactly that. If a city ordinance prohibits the drilling of an oil or gas well within a certain distance of a home or school, a landowner could bring a claim under the bill. The city would then have three choices: (1) pay the landowner for the money he thinks he could have made from the well; (2) waive the regulation and allow a gas well in the playground of a school or in your backyard; or (3) pay attorneys to litigate the claim. This type of law is commonly known as a "pay or waive" law.

That means that oil and gas wells will be permitted essentially anywhere in Dallas. That is bad public policy because people move to cities with the expectation that their property will be protected for the good of their property values. This bill would obliterate the protections that homeowners sought when they moved to a city.

I represent one of many public interest groups located here in Dallas and over the past 10 months, these groups have continued to educate Dallas citizens to the dangers of shale gas drilling. As a result, Dallas residents are a lot smarter about this issue than ever before. Recently, the Dallas city council agreed to the creation of gas drilling task force in order to rewrite our current ordinance that is very weak and ineffective.

At this point, the city now knows better and is beginning the task of doing better. This is because we were on the front lines of bringing this issue to the forefront. It may interest you that the property behind your Oak Cliff office has been mentioned as a possible location for shale gas drilling. Gas drilling has also been a hot topic with our current city elections and will help decide one city council position. It is that important to all Dallas residents and to your constituents in particular.

I am asking that you personally get involved with this matter and do whatever it takes to help stop HB3105. Speaking for the other Dallas groups, we will be behind you in this fight if you are willing to lead it. The time is now for our voices to be heard in Austin and many in Dallas are looking for your leadership. Because, at the end of the day, we all drink the same water and we all breathe the same air.

We look forward to hearing from you and working with you to help kill HB3105.

Sincerely,

Raymond Crawford

Dallas Area Residents for Responsible Drilling


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