Environmentalists, NAACP Unite To Ask Council For Strong Gas Drilling Task Force

It's The Big Day today for gas drilling activists here at City Hall, and as Robert mentioned yesterday, the environmentalist set kicked off the party by joining up with the local NAACP chapter to take a tougher look at gas drilling and compressed natural gas.

The "historic alliance" makes a lot of sense, Downwinders at Risk's Jim Schermbeck said, because "Dallas has a long history of dumping environmental problems on minority communities." He said CNG-powered cabs shouldn't have any special treatment at the airports -- should probably go to the back of the line, in fact -- because the cleanliness of natural gas production has been oversold.

Juanita Wallace with the NAACP, a longtime spokesman on behalf of the independent cabbies who've been fighting City Hall's pro-CNG policies, also spoke about asthma and other long-term health concerns over gas drilling.

"It really is important that we get this ordinance right the first time around," offered Cherelle Blazer with Unified South Dallas and You Can't Live In The Woods, who said the city's current gas drilling ordinance is outdated -- despite the fact that, according to today's council briefing, five permits have already been granted for gas drilling within the city limits.

Raymond Crawford -- who Schermbeck recalled has been leading the charge against gas drilling in Dallas for about a year now -- presented the most dramatic touches: a five-foot-long map of the Barnett Sale region reaching down to Dallas, dotted with the thousands of gas drilling rigs. While he spoke, Crawford also slowly unfurled a 21-foot scroll of signatures from citizens who, he said, were concerned about gas drilling in Dallas.

While he said he hoped the council supported a gas drilling task force, Crawford said he would suggest a few "tweaks" to the option before the council today -- to make sure no oil and gas companies applying to drill in Dallas are on the task force, and to add more spots for residents on the task force. "The citizens have been driving this from the beginning," Crawford said, "so the citizens need to be represented all the way through."

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