City Hall

Drilling Opponents: Plan Commish Chair Pushed Commissioners to Support Fracking

Opponents of Trinity East's plan to drill for natural gas inside the Trinity River floodplain say Plan Commission Chair Joe Alcantar of pressing his fellow commissioners outside of public meetings or lawful closed-door deliberations to reconsider the permit.

In a complaint filed with the District Attorney's public integrity division Wednesday, they claim Alcantar violated open meetings law. What's more, the complaint says three members of the commission independently confirmed that "prior to the reconsideration of the denial of three gas drilling specific-use permits on Jan. 10, 2013, Commission Chair Joe Alcantar telephoned most, if not all, commissioners to discuss the merits of the reconsideration motion."

Jim Schermbeck of Downwinders at Risk, Marc McCord of FracDallas and Zac Trahan with Texas Campaign for the Environment, who filed the complaint, declined to reveal which commissioners confirmed the allegations. "We don't think they were the parties responsible for the illegal activity," Schermbeck said. "It was the Chair and the Chair only."

Unfair Park reached out to both the DA's office and a number of commissioners, including Alcantar, but has not received a response. We'll update accordingly if we do.

Trinity East's application to drill in a floodplain also zoned as parkland -- both of which are prohibited by city code -- has put the Plan Commission in an awkward position. The City Council so far hasn't taken action to amend the law, allowing Trinity East to drill. Nor has it updated city ordinances, despite drilling task force recommendations submitted some months ago.

It gets weirder, though. As Schutze reported earlier, City Manager Mary Suhm signed an until-now secret agreement with Trinity East, promising lobby the Council on its behalf. Trinity East must have been comfortable with that promise -- $19-million comfortable, in fact. Meanwhile, the City Council was assured that nobody would ever spud parkland.

Stay tuned to Unfair Park. Today, the Plan Commission will reconsider its denial of the permits. We've been told there won't be a vote, but the way this morning's going, who the hell knows?