Citizens Form Unofficial Drilling Task Force, Present Recommendations to City Council

The Dallas gas drilling task force sees many of the same faces at each meeting: a small and dedicated group of Dallas residents who show up every Tuesday afternoon and, as it turns out, have formed an unofficial task force with the same goal as the city's official entity -- making drilling ordinance recommendations to council. Today, during the public comment portion of the city council meeting, the citizen coalition -- consisting of individuals, grassroots environmental advocacy organizations and neighborhood groups -- will present an 11-page document detailing their recommendations for the city's drilling ordinance.

At yesterday's meeting, the drilling task force received the same packet, whose proposed regulations, highly specific and quite stringent, include a 3,000-foot setback from homes, schools and a laundry list of other facilities. This measure alone would effectively prevent drilling anywhere in Dallas.

Under the citizens' recommendations, the city would hire a city gas Inspector, conduct baseline testing for air and water quality before drilling as well as environmental and economic impact studies. The city would require tracer elements be added to fracking liquid to determine the cause of leaks, eliminate water usage during a drought and prohibit compressor stations from being placed within city limits.

Several of the citizens' recommendations were addressed to some degree by the two presentations heard yesterday by the task force. Libby Willis, president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods, told the task force that drilling has had a profound affect on neighborhoods in the past three years. At first, before environmental and health concerns came to a head, everyone scrambled to lease their land. Now, neighborhoods are backpedaling, trying to balance financial gain with information and protection.

Willis focused much of her time on the impact pipelines have on a city. In Fort Worth there have been disputes over laying pipelines through residents' front yards, and one pipeline cuts through the only access road to a school. The Dallas citizens' recommendations essentially say, "Not in my front yard," as they recommend that council prohibit pipelines in residential areas.

After Willis's presentation, James Bradbury, who served on the Fort Worth task force, talked to his Dallas counterparts about set-back distances, fracking waste disposal and future land use planning, which can be complicated by pipelines. "This scenario really needs a city to take a lead and encourage some technological advances," he said, specifically citing the implementation of electric compressors instead of diesel -- a requirement that also appears in the Dallas citizens' recommendations (though, as stated above, they also recommend that council completely ban compressor stations from the city).

Fort Worth requires set-back distances of 600 feet, but Bradbury said this may not be enough. "I think with the benefit of hindsight that's too short, but that's what we picked." The Dallas citizens' recommendation of 3,000 feet set-backs are on the opposite extreme of the spectrum. While the citizen recommendations make their debut at council, the official Dallas drilling task force will vote on their recommendations November 29, according to a revised schedule.Citizens Recommendations for a Dallas Gas Well Ordinance

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