Since July, the city's gas drilling task force, established to recommend parameters for Dallas's fracking ordinance rewrite, has voraciously consumed drilling data, testimony from experts and presentation after presentation on various aspects of the practice. But up to this point, visiting experts have done almost all of the talking.
At yesterday's meeting, the task force heard from Chris Klaus of the North Central Texas Council of Governments's Clean Air Steering Committee (presentation here), watched a video of Eastern Research Group's presentation concerning the recent Fort Worth air quality study and heard from Kenneth Tramm of Modern Geosciences about long-term air quality monitoring options (presentation here). While the presentations provided the panel with an overview of air quality regulation and monitoring, little time remained for actual discussion, which has been the case throughout this grueling marathon.
Task force member Ramon Alvarez tells Unfair Park he sees the issue of air quality as having two components: "localized effects," meaning long and short-term health effects on people and neighborhoods near drilling sites, and "climate impacts," or the more global effects of the process. He said the city must take into account existing state and federal air quality regulations while deciphering the appropriate municipal regulations to put in place. "I think we can probably start moving into deliberation mode," he says.
After yesterday's presentations, task force member John McCall called for "less listening, more talking," noting that there hasn't been much discussion amongst the task force.
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Answering questions about the lack of discussion by email, task force chair Lois Finkelman says the presentations and the task force's follow-up questions have infringed on time that they've tried to reserve for discussions. The presentations are typically thorough and often technical, so gathering and digesting the information is by no means a quick process. "I have no answer as to how the task force members are leaning other than listening to their comments and questions during our meeting," Finkleman says.
The meetings are open, so the public is privy to all discussion, but for a group of people who meet for two and a half hours every week, it's notable that there's little sense of who stands where and on which issues.
"At the halfway point, no one really knows what it's going to look like on the end," says Cherelle Blazer, who also sits on the task force. "My worry is that if we're supposed to hash it out in two sessions, that won't be long enough," she says. "I thought there would be more open discussion."
The next two meetings will focus on water and zoning issues, and the task force will look at the ordinances of surrounding cities where drilling is well underway. Then there will be two meetings during which the task force will draft recommendations, and between those weeks will be a second public hearing on October 27.