Before term limits and elections change the complexion of the Dallas City Council in unknowable ways, Scott Griggs and Angela Hunt want an up-or-down vote on proposed natural gas wells along the Trinity River.
Last month, the Dallas Plan Commission voted down the permits for drilling outfit Trinity East, which so far has paid the city $19 million for the rights to thousands of acres in northwest Dallas -- and who-knows-how-many millions more to lease up neighboring acreage on private property in Dallas County. With a rejection at the Plan Commission, supporters on the council need a supermajority to approve the permits. The opposition, on the other hand, needs only four votes to scuttle them.
Trinity East's big bet on fracking the easternmost edge of the Barnett Shale has been caught up in controversy over the locations of the proposed drill sites -- two of which are sited on city parkland and the Trinity River floodplain. To drill on a floodplain requires only an exemption to city code, but on parkland in particular it seems to fly in the face of years of policy, according to opponents. Mayor Rawlings has said publicly that he's concerned about a potential lawsuit from the company over a "deal that was cut."
But with stalwart drilling opponents like Angela Hunt term-limited out, and Scott Griggs facing Delia Jasso for the same Oak Cliff district, the post-election vote gets tougher to count and possibly more favorable for Trinity East.
A memo, signed solely by Hunt and Griggs last week and sent to Mayor Mike Rawlings, City Manager Mary Suhm and their fellow council members, asked for a vote before the current council within 30 days. But if the lack of interest in signing the memo is any indication, they might not get it until after the elections. "We invited our colleagues to sign this memo along with us," Hunt tells Unfair Park.
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"It's very clear what's going on," she said. "This matter needs to be heard. It's been drawn out and we need to move forward. The citizens of Dallas deserve an answer. And they deserve to know who on the council supports gas drilling in parks and who doesn't.
"It's clear council members don't want to take a stand until after the election."
Says Trinity East's representative before the council, Dallas Cothrum of Masterplan: "We appealed the plan commission's hearing and remain optimistic that our partner, the City of Dallas, will determine that gas drilling is as appropriate today as it was when the partners executed the lease several years ago. We will trust the council to act at the appropriate time so that we can fulfill the obligations of the lease."