As we noted a couple of weeks back, Dallas City Hall's taking applications for the gas-drilling task force Angela Hunt demanded after Dave Neumann failed to make good on his promise to do ... well, anything, really. Linda Koop's chairing the thing. And Mayor-For-Now Dwaine Caraway -- the same man who put Carolyn Davis on the ad hoc ethics committee that met for the first time yesterday -- has assembled the rest of the roster. And at least two of the appointees trouble anti-gas-drilling activist Ray Crawford, who's become the public face of a coalition of groups opposed to the city allowing drilling within the city limits, at least till more studies on the impact of fracking can be finished.
Right now, according to Crawford and a City Hall higher-up with whom I spoke this morning, this is the group Caraway has assembled: Koop, Pauline Medrano, Carolyn Davis (for comic relief, no doubt), Sheffie Kadane, Ann Margolin ... and Ron Natinsky and Dave Neumann, both of whom are lame ducks. Which is but one reason why Crawford's unhappy.
He's sent two letters of complaint to City Hall -- one to Caraway, another to Koop -- in which he outlines his and the other enviro groups' frustration with the make-up of the ad hoc committee. For one thing, Crawford writes, why is Natinsky there? After all, he owns Exxon stock -- and Exxon's the parent company of XTO, which wants the permits to drill, baby, drill. And Neumann? WTF? Pardon: What's the point? Crawford says this ain't a good start in the letters that follow after the jump.
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Council member Linda Koop:
Speaking on behalf of several Dallas based environmental groups, I wanted to contact you with regards to the member roster of the ad hoc committee that will be involved with the selection of the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force.
You may have to correct me if I have bad information, but I am under the impression that council members Neumann and Natinsky have both signed on to the ad hoc committee to assist in selection of task force members.
If true, it troubles me that both council members were campaigning without knowing the outcome of either race. But now that both council members will be leaving office as of June 29th, it does give one pause as to their involvement with the selection process of the task force members in the next few weeks.
To compound the problem, in the past councilman Neumann did admit to receiving campaign donations from the gas industry which he did return, but councilman Natinsky has admitted that he owns Exxon stock which by the way is the parent company of XTO Energy. He would not have been eligible to vote on this issue in council so the question remains why he would be placed on this task force.
Up until this year council member Neumann's lack of support to study the issue until the campaign process began, was just one of the many reasons he is not returning to office. Based on public record, council members Hunt requested that the task force be created and managed in an open and transparent manner so that everyone would know exactly how this task force would operate going forward.
We would request the following:
A. Council members Neumann and Natinsky be removed from the Dallas gas drilling task force selection committee immediately.
B. A new co chair for the ad hoc committee be named by the new mayor on June 29th.
C. That the deadline for task force applicants be extended by one month to June 24th
D. That the task force study time begin on August 2 and last until February 7, 2012
Since the city council has extended the lease agreement with XTO by 30 months, there should not be a rush to gather the information needed to rewrite the current Dallas gas ordinance. As you may remember, Theresa O'Donnell at city council briefing recommended a year long study on this issue which we felt was a fair amount of time.
To go from that city staff recommendation of 1 year to just 16 hours is an embarrassment on behalf of the city. This amount of time does not allow the task force to compile enough information to make the correct recommendations. We all know that much of the research needed to rewrite the gas ordinance will come from other communitites such as Ft. Worth but there still needs to be enough time for task force members to not just 'copy and paste' something together but also 'think long term' and look beyond our immediate area. Topics such as health risk benefits, traffic studies, air quality, what the city can require of industry, and emergency responders training must be addressed.
I have been informed by Dallas Fire Department personnel that the Dallas Fire Department's haz mat unit has not been trained in emergency response techniques related to gas drilling related incidents. Topics such as this must be addressed sooner rather than later.
In closing both mayoral candidates, Rawlings and Kunkle have said that the city of Dallas must proceed slowly and with caution when it comes to gas drilling in our city. This is too important of an issue to allow the perception of impropriety to exist at the beginning. I believe that viewpoint is smart and highly recommended.
If you would like to discuss this subject in person, I and other area citizen groups representatives would welcome the opportunity to come down to your office and have a conversation.
Dallas Area Residents for Responsible Drilling
Downwinders at Risk
Dallas Sierra Club
Texas Campaign for the Environment
Texas Oil and Gas Project/Earthworks
You Can't Live in the Woods
Mayor Dwaine Caraway:
I am sending you a copy of an email that I wrote to the attention of council member Linda Koop. In this email you will see that I and several other citizen groups listed are concerned about the make up of the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force Ad Hoc Selection Committee members. We think that it is a priority to preserve the integrity of the task force from the beginning. My understanding that both council members Neumann and Natinsky are currently listed as being on the selection committee. Since both council members will no longer be representing their districts, allowing them to remain on the selection committee sends an inappropriate message to Dallas citizens.
I have listed the reasons for my request in my email to Ms. Koop. The scope of the task force is also addressed and I would hope that such an important issue of this nature is not rushed through the process just to beat a deadline of October 26, 2011 when in fact, the city of Dallas has extended the lease agreement by 30 months. In 5 weeks. we will have a new mayor and a new council. This new team of civic leadership in Dallas should be the driving force behind the task force, and not one with some members who are leaving office with a weak or compromised track record on this subject from the beginning.
It is with hope that you once again as you have done so in the past, take a leadership role in the beginning stages of the task force to insure it's integrity. Please take a moment to read through my email to Ms. Koop and if you should have any questions, I would be more than happy to have a conversation with you regarding this matter.
Dallas Area Residents for Responsible Drilling