Dallas keeps promising not to drill on parkland, yet city officials keep look for ways to allow energy companies to do exactly that.
The latest push comes in the form of a draft of Dallas' proposed fracking law, a long-awaited proposal to outline how natural gas drilling should be regulated within city limits. Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Texas Campaign for the Environment say the just-released proposal shows they've won some important victories.
There's a but.
The draft ordinance says drillers must stay at least 1,500 feet away from protected use areas, which is what environmentalists have been pushing for. But the buffer doesn't apply to those companies that want to go ahead and drill on parks, playgrounds and golf courses.
Seriously. Here's the language from the draft ordinance:
If a gas drilling and production use is located on a public park, playground, or golf course, no minimum spacing is required from protected uses located on the public park, playground, or golf course. The minimum spacing requirements from protected uses off public park, playground, or golf course apply.
In other words, no fracking is allowed close to a protected site, but right on top of it? That's perfectly fine.
"The proposed rules on park land are utterly ridiculous," Ed Meyer of the Mountain Creek Neighborhood Alliance said in a statement.
The City Plan Commission is giving the public one last time to speak out about the proposed ordinance this afternoon before it gets sent off to the mayor and the City Council. Here is the full draft law:
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Fracking in parkland seemed to be off the table. The City Plan Commission had twice rejected Trinity East's drilling permits on parkland, along the Trinity River. After more political maneuvering, the issue got another vote last month, and the Plan Commission again rejected the drilling permits.
But it never really seemed like Dallas would give up on drilling on parkland that easily. The City Planning Commission has been working on its ordinance governing all drilling in Dallas since 2011, and even getting the 1,500-foot barrier suggestion in the draft law was difficult for activists. As recently as August, it appeared that the city attorney's office was trying to make it a little easier for drillers to work closer to protected areas. The Plan Commission had clearly voted for 1,500-feet setbacks between drill sites and protected areas like homes, business and recreational areas, but the city attorney's office kept trying to narrow that barrier down to 1,000 feet, as Eric reported.