Gas Drillers' Reps to Task Force: 1,000-Foot Set-Back Rule Would Be a "Deal-Killer"

After a few weeks off, the city's Gas Drilling Task Force gets back at it today at 2. The agenda's short and sweet -- "Develop Recommendations for Gas Drilling and Production Regulations" -- but the process has been anything but; initially, you may recall, the group was to turn in its recommendations to council in November. And now, this: Yesterday Dallas Cothrum and former city council member Mark Housewright of MasterPlan Consulting, which reps the gas-drilling companies with leases in the Dallas city limits, dispatched to task force members a missive decrying the 1,000-foot set-back limits agreed upon by the task force last month.

Raymond Crawford posted the letter to his website this morning; it's also below. Cothrum tells Unfair Park this morning he sent the letter, which outlines other concerns, because the set-back recommendation is "a deal-killer" as far as his clients are concerned.

"No one would make application in Dallas again if that changes," he says. "It's not just 1,000 feet. It's 100-and-something acres, and that's fine in Flower Mound, which is half-developed, and Southlake, which is maybe more than half-developed. But it's more than 1,000 feet when you look at it. Now you're going from the edge of the pad to the protected use, which is actually 1,100 feet, 1,200 feet. If you're using Flower Mound or Southlake as your template, you're essentially issuing a moratorium. No one will even take the time to submit."

Cothrum points out: The task force's recommendation only concerns new leases. But, of course, XTO Energy and Trinity East Energy are still waiting for the OK to drill on their respective sites for which they paid the city $34 million four years ago. After having asked the city for their specific use permits to begin drilling, they agreed to 30-month extensions while the new regs are hashed out.

And as far as Cothrum's concerned, that 1,000 set-back rule, if it makes it through council, could impact those existing leases as well: "The council can pass whatever it wants, and we have concerns the task force is setting the bar so high nobody can reach it. ... Because it's a SUP process the council could say the 1,000 feet is what's appropriate, which is why the industry's spending time and money on us going and following this -- because it matters which number they pick. When it's 1,000 from the pad site, that makes it hard."

Angela Hunt, you may recall, said back in June, at a Gasland screening, that she fully expects XTO and Trinity East to sue the city over those existing leases at Hensley Field and L.B. Houston. Cothrum doesn't know because he doesn't ask: "I have no idea if they might sue the city or not." But, he insists, if the city sticks with that new set-back recommendation, Dallas is "missing out on a couple hundred million in revenue. ... And people who know about urban drilling aren't scared of it."Master Plan Document

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