Plan Commission Puts Off Vote on Fracking Permits, Begging City Council to Do Something

Texas Campaign for the Environment's Zac Trahan and a bunch of people wearing masks.
Texas Campaign for the Environment's Zac Trahan and a bunch of people wearing masks.

The Dallas Plan Commission voted to delay any decision on permitting natural gas wells in the Trinity River floodplain, telegraphing a clear message Thursday to City Council: Your move. Commissioner Gloria Tarpley remains none too pleased about being asked to consider a permit that currently runs afoul of city code's prohibition against drilling in floodplains and parkland.

Drilling opponents lined up to harangue the commissioners, who only a couple of months before had voted to deny driller Trinity East's application. Gary Stuard of Downwinders at Risk cited Jim Schutze's post here today, in which he nabs the wraith-like document that details City Manager Mary Suhm's pledge to Trinity East to throw her weight behind changes to city code barring fracking floodplains and parkland. This was right around the same time she assured the council that no such drilling would ever happen.

"At the very same time they were going behind our BACKS," he yelled.

Stuard also put Chairman Joe Alcantar in the hot seat, accusing him of leaning on the other commissioners to reconsider their votes in private. Stuard's cohort, as we noted earlier, filed a complaint against Alcantar with the District Attorney's Office, alleging violations of open meetings law.

After one speaker went on interminably, public comment time ran out, sparking furor among the attendees, who shouted, "MORE TIME! MORE TIME! MORE TIME!"

Jim Schermbeck of Downwinders at Risk made his way to the podium and beseeched the commission to vote for additional public comment time. He was rebuffed, and when he refused to leave the podium, Alcantar ordered the police to escort him out. A burly officer grabbed two fistfuls of Schermbeck's suit jacket and hauled him bodily out of the chambers.

Trinity East's advocates took to the podium next, to clarify what they say are misconceptions regarding the onsite gas processing plant they're seeking to build. Dallas Cothrum, who has represented Trinity East before the City Council and commission, said the plant would treat gas only from that site.

Chief Executive Officer Tom Blanton disputed claims that the plant would scrub benzene, a carcinogen, and hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas, from the natural gas. "Our facility will mostly separate a small amount of water and carbon dioxide." Testing of gas in nearby Irving, he claims, found no evidence of the dangerous compounds.

Commissioner Tarpley asked if the driller could move the plant further from the planned Elm Fork soccer complex, to which Blanton essentially replied: Uh, we'll look into that. Tarpley ended the meeting by imploring the City Council to take up the very city codes the permits would violate if Trinity East were allowed to drill.

The waiting game continues.

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