At City Hall, A New Lease for XTO's Drilling Plans and An Update on Dallas' Budget Shortfall

I'm wedged into the corner of the briefing room at City Hall -- no complaints, because really, Brad Watson needs his legroom. The council's running through its various opening proclamations -- Delia Jasso just introduced Oak Cliff's Better Block Bunch right now, including Jason Roberts and council challenger Scott Griggs, who didn't show -- and the room is filling in with the gas drilling crowd.

They're overflowing into the hallway, in ties, coats and dreadlocks, anxious to have their say as the council considers a pair of proposals relating to XTO Energy's application to drill at Hensley Field in far western Oak Cliff.

You'll recall Dave Neumann said last week he'll plan on bumping XTO's drilling application back a few months to allow time to study the issue -- but not before the entire council considers a new proposal, to extend XTO's leases of city land, set to expire in February, for another 30 months.

That'd leave their leases in place till well past this fall, when Neumann said he'd probably suggest XTO's application come back before the council. And Patricia Major, the first of the public to speak on the issue, is up now extolling Neumann's "great wisdom" in suggesting the council delay all this until the "science gets lined up with the politlcs."

Carolyn Davis is taking a stand now, as the coucil gets ready to vote on the lease renewals, because she doesn't think they've included anything "to make people feel good about that neighborhood."

"You can Google natural gas drilling and you will find a list of problems about natural gas and the problems gas drilling has caused."

Hunt begins by thanking everyone in the crowded room for turning up, and says it's important for "everyone to understand no SUP is being granted today."

"I think we need to take a look at what the task force analysis is before we consider any SUP," but the lease extension, she says, "allows all of us to take a step back," so she says she'll support it. Though she reminds, she has "grave reservations" about the drilling in general.

Caraway, though, says he's concerned about "waiting 30 months and just letting it sit there." There's a city process that must be followed, and that must be followed. Now the lease is running out, he says, so if they want to sit on the city's land, well, they'd better pay up again.

"Neighbors, I'm listening to you. I am listening to you. I'm listening to the neighbors. I'm listening to the neighbors. I want the neighbors to understand that," he says. "The city of Dallas is my district," he says, so he's looking out for folks even though they're in Neumann's district.

Kadane counters Caraway's point that XTO was late applying for their SUP. "I know how the oil companies work," he says, but he doesn't think XTO knew they'd have trouble getting an SUP from the city. Neumann got half the lease acreage taken out, he says, and that's big.

The vote to extend the leases goes through, and it's all yays except for Davis and Caraway.

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