As Dallas Rewrites Its Gas Drilling Ordinance, Fort Worth Begins Questioning Its Regs

Task force chair, Lois Finkelman, and member, David Sterling, look fresh-faced at the first meeting, when they listened to a presentation about driling in Fort Worth.
Task force chair, Lois Finkelman, and member, David Sterling, look fresh-faced at the first meeting, when they listened to a presentation about driling in Fort Worth.
Photo by Leslie Minora

A little more than a month ago, the Dallas gas drilling task force embarked on its mission to tackle the subject of hydraulic fracturing and recommend regulations to be included in the city's drilling ordinance. At their first meeting on July 12, Rick Trice, the assistant director of planning and development for Fort Worth gave an overview of drilling and regulation in his corner of the DFW, an area where drilling sites pop up faster than fast-food chains.

Following Trice's presentation, Dallas drilling task force member Cherelle Blazer of You Can't Live in the Woods called Fort Worth's ordinance "out of date" and said, "I'd like to see us use more progressive models. We do not want a well drilled into every nook and cranny."

It seems Fort Worth's own decision-makers are catching up with Blazer's sentiment. Now, council members are talking through issues with the city's current rules and insinuating that change may be, or perhaps should be, on the horizon.

"This is like analysis paralysis, and we continue to kick the can," council woman Kathleen Hicks said at a drilling workshop Tuesday. "And I've sat at this table for six years, and I just feel like we haven't done a whole lot." She recommend that the city progress from prolonged pontification to definitive action.

At Tuesday's meeting, the Fort Worth city council was briefed on the million-dollar air quality report released last month. Just last week, the Star-Telegram urged that the much-anticipated then mostly ignored document be given proper attention and not be placed "on a shelf."

Fort Worth council man Jungus Jordan, also of the North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee, said, "We've got monitors all over the place, and we've got to make sure we're not adding to the problem. But we know what we can do right now, and that's implement the best practices," according to Channel 5. "Best practices" can mean enforcement of drilling set-back distances, tighter vapor recovery tactics, increased inspections,and other practices that would further restrict air and water contamination.

The Dallas task force has the unique advantage of watching other cities' actions while shaping recommendations for the city partially based on what works and doesn't work elsewhere. Without drilling in our city limits, but with XTO and Trinity East leases casting shadows on City Hall, it's not as though Dallas is in a completely advantageous position, but the city is nonetheless doing its diligence.

Asked about the Fort Worth council questioning the city's current ordinance, Dallas task force member Blazer told Unfair Park, "It kind of confirms what I already knew as an environmental professional. It gives me hope. It's a good sign."

At the next task force meeting on Tuesday, industry representatives will address the task force, followed by environmental representatives on August 30t, which will make for interesting back-to-back weeks. After the past two Tuesdays without task force meetings, we're starting to miss the damned things.


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