Drill, Maybe, Drill? Almost Three Years After Council OK'd Gas Leases, Hunt Still Concerned.

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Patrick Michels has been all over XTO Energy's efforts to sink some gas drills in and around Dallas, a piece of which may or may not wind up on the council's year-ending agenda on December 8 following the City Plan Commission's decision last month to deny the wastewater-spilling Exxon subsidiary a permit to drill at Hensley Field in far west Oak Cliff. But as council member Angela Hunt reminds on her blog: While XTO takes its case to the council, "more immediately troubling, however, is that a company named Keystone wants a variance from the Town of Flower Mound to drill less than 500 feet from Lake Grapevine, a source for Dallas' drinking water."

Hunt directs your attention a public hearing on the matter scheduled for December 15th at 6:30 p.m. in front of the Flower Mound Oil and Gas Board of Appeals. Writes the District 14 rep, "Keystone has requested numerous variances from current regulations, including its proximity to Lake Grapevine and its location in a FEMA floodplain. I plan to attend the meeting, and have asked city staff to take whatever steps necessary to protect Dallas' water supply."

Now, Pittsburgh's city council just banned gas drilling within the city limits. But in case you forgot what led to all this back-and-forthing over gas drilling in Dallas, Hunt offers this fiery flashback to February 2008, when the council OK'd leases on public land without the citizens' input. An excerpt:

I'm tired of our city whoring itself out for a few measley bucks. There. I said it. I've been thinking that a lot, like when we decided it would be fabulous to put up ugly kiosks on tiny sidewalks all over town, for a pittance. Or every time we beg businesses to come to our city and give them tax breaks or other financial incentives out of the public coffers. Or when we give developers excessive zoning rights at the expense of residents/the environment/good design. We need to be more chaste and less desperate. We need to make our city attractive to businesses by making our city safer, improving our schools, and cleaning up/beautifying Dallas. We need to force new developments to provide generous sidewalks and use quality materials that will last. We need to protect our few natural assets like Timbercreek and the Trinity River. ...

Unfortunately, everyone except Councilmember Rasansky and I voted against getting public input before doing the leases. Those against the motion argued that each drilling site would require a public hearing and council approval, and that's when residents would have their say. But that misses two key points: One, residents might like to have been consulted not just on individual gas wells, but on the overarching issue of whether they want gas drilling on public land in Dallas. Two, the council will NOT have the "absolute right" to refuse every drilling request. The drilling companies aren't giving the city $34M to get absolutely nothing in return. We can't turn down every single permit and not expect a lawsuit. And we can't refuse a permit just because residents don't like the idea of drilling near their homes. So we'll be forced to do some drilling, somewhere.

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