Gas Drilling Committee Trims List of Task Force Applicants to Nine Slated For Council Vote

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After postponing last Thursday's meeting so council members could ride in the Dallas Mavericks' parade through downtown, the city council's Ad Hoc Gas Drilling Task Force Nominating Committee got back to speed-dating candidates for the committee Tuesday afternoon. The intention: paring down the list of 67 wannabes to 18 finalists to the final nine names that will go before the council when it reconvenes, briefly, following Monday's swearing-in ceremony, per Scott Griggs' request.

And so, yesterday, the nominating committee did what it was supposed to do -- offer their colleagues three applicants in each of the following categories: subject matter experts, industry business representatives and citizens/environmental groups. The recommendations are nonbinding.

After the jump you'll find the names of the nine, along with a few biographical highlights and some of what was said during their interviews and the committee's pre-vote discussion. All things considered, the vote went fairly smoothly with but one minor snag when the results for citizens/environmental candidates ended in a tie between Louis McBee and John McCall Jr. The tie broke after incoming council member Scott Griggs reminded the committee that McCall is from his Oak Cliff district, which he says is underrepresented by applicants. Pauline Medrano then changed her vote, swinging the result in favor of McCall.

And now, the rundown:

Subject Matter Experts:

Margaret Keliher: The former Dallas County Judge was an outspoken member of the North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee. She is currently the executive director of the Texas Business for Clean Air. "She has been around oil wells, as Mr. Kadane has said," said committee chair, Linda Koop, referencing Kadane's oft-repeated question as to whether applicants have on-site experience. Kadane echoed his support.

Terrence Welch: The attorney with Brown & Hofmeister represents local governments in North Texas. During his interview yesterday, he stressed the need to craft city ordinances from solid data based in "sound reasoning." Griggs praised "his ability to write a defensible ordinance." Council member Angela Hunt commended Welch's "incredible amount of expertise," and added, with a laugh, "and we're not having to pay him a consultation fee."

David Sterling: As chair of the Environmental and Occupational Health Department at the University of North Texas, he's done several studies on gas drilling and is well-known in the field. As Patrick noted in last week's live blog, however, his fracking-site experience is only surface-level. But he makes up for it with his depth of knowledge on the issue. During last week's interview, he told the committee, "It's an industrial process moving into a densely populated area. It's going to happen. The question is how to make sure it's done in a safe manner." Koop called him "terrific," and Hunt said, "He understood exposure and emissions issues, which I thought brought a special talent there."

Industry Business Representatives:

Bruce Bullock: The Director of SMU's Maguire Energy Institute told the committee last week, "I consider myself an equal opportunity offender. I think I raise enough questions on both sides that I'll be viewed as subjective." And he answered Kadane's question about on-site experience with a "yes." He's seen drilling in action. For the most part, a "yes" to that question secures Kadane's vote. "He knew what he was talking about," council member Carolyn Davis said. "In general, he seemed balanced," Hunt said, repeating the adjective she kept coming back to.

David Biegler: The chairman and CEO of Southcross Energy with a background in physics told the committee, "I've been in the energy business my entire career." To Kadane's boilerplate question about whether he's seen the process, Biegler, who ran Lone Star Gas for 12 years, answered, "I observed my first frack job in 1966 -- that's quite a while ago." Just like that, at least one vote in his favor. Another feather in his cap was his common interest with Hunt in the word "balance." He said there is a role for municipal regulation "if it is properly balanced [between competing interests]...The challenge, I think, is always in striking that balance." He said he believes that personally, he can strike a "balance" with environmental groups, but that he does believe fracking can be done safely in an urban area if it is "properly managed." Hunt said she underlined the key term, "balance," in her notes about Biegler.

Brian "Patrick" Shaw: The oil and gas attorney at Woodward and Shaw appealed to the committee because he has represented both landowners and gas companies throughout 40-year career.

Citizens/Environmental Groups:

Ramon Alvarez: The scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund holds a doctorate in chemistry from the University of California-Berkeley. He has extensively studied air quality issues resulting from the production of oil and natural gas. To Kadane's question about whether safeguards can be put in place to make gas drilling safe, Alvarez responded, "Unfortunately, there's always going to be some residual level of risk. I think you need to look at it from the standpoint of minimizing risk, but there are definitely things we can do to do that." Kadane said he thought Alvarez could bridge the gap between environmental and business interests. "I had a good feeling about Ramon," he said matter-of-factly.

Cherelle Blazer: The Yale-educated scientist and founder of the environmental sustainability organization You Cant Live in the Woods last week answered Ron Natinsky's question about whether she had an open mind by saying, "My mind is very open on the subject." Margolin was highly complimentary. "I thought she was very impressive that she could be both a neighborhood representative and somebody that has environmental expertise, and I thought it was nice to have that all in one place." Though last week she told Kadane that she had seen fracking first-hand, Tuesday he voiced fears that she would not be capable of melding her environmental interests with the business interests of others. "I thought she was too much environmental and had nothing good to say about the oil industry and wouldn't when they convened," he said. Others disagreed. "She brings balance," Davis said.

John McCall Jr.: During his interview last week, the attorney and past president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League said, "Gas drilling is a revenue stream we shouldn't shut out, as long as it's done right." Griggs, who points out that the southern sector of the city has a vested interest in gas drilling but is not well-represented in task force applicants, said, "It's always something to take into consideration [that he's from the southern part of Dallas]." Dave Neumann and Koop agreed that he would made a solid candidate.

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