Final Chapter? You’re the Author

This could be it: the final vote on our hard-fought and long-awaited gas drilling ordinance update has been set for December 11th. That means we need you to come testify at City Hall that day, possibly for the last time. Dallas residents and organizations have been working to get this ordinance done for several years – but as close as it seems now, we aren’t at all certain whether it will actually pass! Public participation and testimony has been critical in this effort so far, so please come speak now or forever hold your peace. In the meantime, you can contact your elected officials and urge them to support the new gas ordinance.

December 11th, 2013
Dallas City Council Chambers
1500 Marilla, 75201, 6th Floor
Email Mayor Rawlings here

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, in his own words:“I will never vote to put neighborhoods at risk because of money.”

“There is a place for everything under heaven, and I don’t think the place for drilling is in Dallas.”

“I will be supporting the efforts of our [City Plan Commission] on new gas drilling ordinances, to make sure the standards are such to ensure the safety of our citizens.”

After the last City Council briefing, things have become fairly clear: the outcome will probably boil down to the vote of Mayor Mike Rawlings. Mayor Rawlings has repeatedly and publicly expressed his personal reservations with urban gas drilling, and at the Trinity East permit vote in August he even went so far as to state unequivocally that he would support the work of the City Plan Commission to pass this new ordinance. Whether or not the ordinance actually passes in its current form will come down to whether or not Rawlings does what he said he would do. We think it really is that simple. There are only two other “undecided” council members, and we believe they will follow his lead.

The city attorneys are raising the threat-of-lawsuit red flags, as always. City staff is attempting to steer this conversation back to the 2-year-old, obsolete Gas Drilling Task Force recommendations, as usual. But this is clearly a legacy vote for Mayor Rawlings. It could be the final chapter of what has been a long drama full of crazy twists and turns for years. It’s not just another hearing, just another debate, just another vote – we hope you will come help see this through to the end.

The alternative, should the industry lobbyists prevail, is to go back to weaker, older gas drilling rules as proposed two years ago by the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force. This bad proposal was strongly opposed by a coalition of environmental, neighborhood and civic groups. The new City Plan Commission ordinance is far better in many important ways, and although it still has major flaws, this same coalition has endorsed its passage. To see the key differences and improvements, see this page.

Dallas residents have won several important victories since this saga began, but this last vote will be the real legacy of all of our work. We can’t overstate its importance. Please help spread the word!

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Parks are for Chillin’, not for Drillin’

Thanks to so much work and effort from so many people, and thanks to an incredible coalition of local organizers and community leaders throughout the city, plans to drill on public park land—and to build a mini-gas-refinery next to a huge new soccer complex—are finally, officially dead. As of this moment, there are zero pending gas drilling applications in Dallas. Even better, we’re on our way to getting a strong new gas drilling ordinance that will be the lasting legacy of our involvement in this issue.

Back in December, Mayor Rawlings called a few reporters to his office to tell them what was going to happen with these drilling applications. Here’s how the Dallas Observer put it:

So, does Mike Rawlings think Trinity East is allowed to drill in a floodplain? “They will,” he replied. “That deal was cut. If they drill. That’s a business decision for them,” he said.

Knowing the deal had been un-cut by Dallas residents, Rawlings was absolutely furious at yesterday’s public hearing, treating the crowd of people wishing to testify with utter contempt. First he tried to force us to pick 4-5 people to speak for the other 50, and when we refused, he rudely interrupted and cut off countless speakers, including a 16-year old student who attends a school very near one of the proposed drilling sites. Then he gave a speech in which he claimed to be against allowing any gas drilling in Dallas, but strongly in favor of allowing this drilling because he feared a $100 million lawsuit would follow a denial. We needed 4 votes for denial and we got 6. Well done. Here’s some of the press coverage.

Dallas Observer

Dallas Morning News

KERA News 

CBS News 

ABC News

Dallas Observer

CultureMap Dallas

D Magazine 

Dallas Business Journal

Again, we can’t thank you enough for your contributions and participation, and we’re going to need your continued involvement. After the excitement of this victory wears off, the next stop for this train is the strong new gas drilling ordinance we’ve all been working toward for years. All aboard.

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Support a Strong Ordinance, Oppose Drilling on Parks

This month the gas drilling debate is heating up again in Dallas. There are two important public hearings coming up that we need you to participate in! Citizen involvement is how we’ve come this far and we can’t afford to stop now.

First, the Dallas City Plan Commission has (finally) begun writing a new local ordinance to govern all potential gas drilling operations. This is a very big deal: the rules city officials put into place now will determine our fate for years to come. At first, it seemed as if the Plan Commission was moving to enact a strong, protective ordinance, but now they are being pushed to weaken the rules and allow drilling closer to homes, schools, businesses and parks. Residents have essentially ONE chance to speak out in support of a strong ordinance, so please attend this hearing! To learn more, you can read about what we want the ordinance to include and watch the most recent CBS News story.

City Plan Commission Public Hearing
August 22nd, 1:30PM
Dallas City Council Chambers
1500 Marilla, 6th Floor

Next, Mayor Rawlings and the City Council will be holding a final vote on the Trinity East gas drilling applications that were denied twice by the City Plan Commission. They need 12 votes to overturn the previous decision, which seems unlikely. But we cannot take anything for granted at this point, and so we need residents to come speak out against this proposal. Two of the drilling sites are on public park land, one is near a school, and the third includes a huge gas processing facility and compressor station just a few hundred feet away from the new Elm Fork Soccer Complex. There’s a reason these permits have already been denied, and we need to make sure Mayor Rawlings and the City Council uphold that decision. You can watch the ABC News story about this and read the Dallas Morning News article.

City Council Vote
August 28th, 9:00AM
Dallas City Council Chambers
1500 Marilla, 6th Floor

As always, success will mean strong citizen participation. Please come to the hearing and vote and express your opinion in person. There’s no substitute for your face-to-face interaction. Dallas officials need to hear from you!

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Dallas Officials Consider New Gas Drilling Ordinance

Tomorrow the Dallas City Plan Commission will participate in a “gas drilling ordinance workshop” at City Hall, as officials have begun drafting a new city ordinance to better govern fracking in Dallas. But what, exactly, will the ordinance contain? For those concerned about drilling in parks, along the Trinity River, near neighborhoods and school, that question has become the new bottom line.


The bad news is that city staff has begun writing the ordinance based on a set of recommendations the specially-appointed Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force issued last year–recommendations that are far too weak to truly protect residents and the environment. The good news is that many groups have organized support for a better ordinance: Mountain Creek Neighborhood Alliance, North Dallas Neighborhood Alliance, Dallas Homeowners League, Dallas Sierra Club, Downwinders at Risk, Dallas Area Residents for Responsible Drilling,  Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project, FracDallas—and even the Dallas Morning News—have all called for a stronger ordinance that goes beyond the Task Force recommendations. Will the City Plan Commission respond?

Here are our principles for a new, protective gas drilling ordinance. These basic ideas—keep drilling away from people, parks and green spaces, protect our air and water, give the public a right to know—form the principles of our Citizens’ Recommendations. You will have several opportunities over the next few months to participate in the decision-making process. Make your voice heard!

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Where do the Candidates Stand?

Next stop for the gas drilling debate: Dallas City Council elections. The issue is featured in every candidate questionnaire, every forum and debate, and most campaign articles and news reports. It’s a factor in every City Council race, and could be the deciding factor in some. This is a sign of success, folks. But it won’t matter unless the right candidates win. That means you need to get out there and help the right candidates win. So here are some articles and resources to get educated about where those who wish to serve stand on this front-burner issue.

A Breather’s Guide to Voting in Dallas City Council Races

In its recent Dallas City Council questionnaire, The Dallas Morning News asked this question: What is your position, for or against, allowing gas drilling in Dallas and the city’s attempts to regulate it? Here are their answers.

When was the last time you confused gas drilling with marriage equality?

Just left an editorial board meeting on the District 1 council seat — Delia Jasso vs. Scott Griggs, a head-to-head match up of two council incumbents brought about by redistricting. Shock: That a council member would,  shall we say, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeend the truth…. really?

Contest heating up in Dallas City Council race to represent Preston Hollow, nearby neighborhoods (subscription required)

On the hot-button issue of gas drilling, Burk says he’s opposed to it anywhere in the city, even though he is an investor in oil and gas ventures. Staubach Gates says that she’s opposed to drilling near neighborhoods, but that there are a few areas of the city where it could be allowed on a case-by-case basis.

Alonzo facing limited challenge in Dallas City Council District 6 race (subscription required)

The City Plan Commission rejected Trinity East’s request for drilling permits, sending the matter to the City Council for a final decision. Because of the commission’s opposition, Trinity East needs a supermajority of 12 council votes. Alonzo said Tuesday that she would not support the permits and opposes drilling anywhere in the city.

Big Day in Big D Drilling Fight: DMN Comes Out Swinging, and Claudia Meyer Will Take On Vonciel Hill for Council Seat

We’re very encouraged to hear the news this morning that longtime neighborhood advocate and clean air supporter Claudia Meyer is filing to run against Vonciel Hill in the newly-created District 3 that covers southwest Dallas. Most people reading this will instantly recognize her as the motherly-figure that has guided Dallas neighborhood resistance to irresponsible gas drilling for the last four years.

Editorial: We recommend Adam Medrano for Dallas City Council District 2

We also were pleasantly surprised when he told us that he opposes gas drilling in urban areas, adding that he would urge his aunt to vote against the contentious Trinity East gas drilling deal.

Dallas Morning News Voters Guide

Phillip Kingston (District 14): I oppose gas drilling, fracking, and refining within the city limits of Dallas. These activities are inconsistent with my focus on improving residential quality of life, but they will also do long-term damage to Dallas’s ability to attract economic development.

More to come, of course. Early voting starts on April 29th, and election day is May 11th. Find a candidate you support and contact them to volunteer. City Council elections are often decided by just a few votes, so your impact will be magnified. Get to work, people!

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Vote Officially Rocked

Wow. By the slimmest of margins, the City Plan Commission has rejected the proposed Trinity East gas drilling sites and compressor station for a second time. Although the City Council could still attempt to gather a super-majority vote to overturn this decision, let’s take a moment to enjoy success. Thanks goes out to all participating residents, neighborhood groups, organizers and trouble-makers. Thanks to Irving City Council member Rose Cannaday and all Irving residents who have joined our efforts. City Hall was standing room only on Thursday, and you made an impact. Even one of the most outspoken drilling supporters on the City Plan Commission ended up voting against the proposed compressor station. Again, wow.

Watch the WFAA story here!

Listen to the KERA story here!

Read the Dallas Morning News story here!

Unfortunately, the City Council can still reverse this recommendation—but they need a super-majority vote to do so. Trinity East must think that’s a possibility, because they’ve asked for a vote next month. Read the Dallas Observer story here.

You know what this means: Click here to contact Mayor Rawlings and the City Council now. Keep your eyes out for another scheduled hearing and vote. Be ready to come back to City Hall and give our elected officials the benefit of your testimony. Keep using your voice, it’s made all the difference so far. But it ain’t over till it’s over.

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Rock the Vote

Back in February, the Dallas City Plan Commission delayed their vote on the first three gas drilling applications and asked the City Council to clear the air on whether gas drilling should be allowed on park lands and floodplains. Of course, the City Council has done exactly nothing since then. But the City Plan Commission is scheduled to hold their final vote anyway, on March 21st. To be clear, this is a bad proposal to drill on public park land along the Trinity River—and to build a gas processing facility near the new Elm Fork Soccer Complex, which will be the city’s largest outdoor recreation area. The City Plan Commission voted against this in December, but then agreed to “reconsider” their decision. We need you to attend the public hearing and speak out. You can rock this vote!

Thursday, March 21st, 1:00PM
Dallas City Hall, Flag Room
1500 Marilla St, 6th Floor

Of course, you can also contact the City Plan Commission today and give them a piece of your mind. Texas Campaign for the Environment has an email link here.

What’s at Stake?

These are site plans prepared by Trinity East. In February’s public testimony, they said: “This isn’t a gas processing plant.”

Toxic Air Pollution – Gas drilling and processing facilities constantly release a variety of hazardous chemicals into the air. These include chemicals known to cause cancer as well as those known or linked to causing hormone damage in children. According to the gas company’s own estimates, their processing facility would be the tenth largest source of hazardous air pollution in Dallas.

Land and Water Contamination – Drilling is messy. Drilling in the floodplain is even messier. A University of Texas study released last year concluded there is more of a risk of chemical surface spills from gas and oil fracking than any other kind of drilling. This gas company has already drilled a well along the Trinity River in Irving that had a casing failure beneath our underground aquifers. The company reported that no contamination occurred as a result, but no independent testing was required to verify whether our aquifers are fully protected.

Risk of Accidents and Explosions – Refining equipment, compressor stations, storage tanks and other processing facilities all contribute to a higher risk of serious accidents or explosions. Thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals and highly explosive material can be kept on-site for years.

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All Eyes on Mayor Rawlings, City Council

So the City Plan Commission decided to toss the live grenade–two gas drilling applications in parklands and floodplains and one gas processing plant / compressor station near the Elm Fork Soccer Complex–back into the lap of Mayor Rawlings and the City Council. The City Plan Commission has told Rawlings and the Council to address the controversial proposals to change the parkland and floodplain ordinances before expecting a decision from them on the actual gas drilling applications. That’s a very good decision. But it means everyone’s attention must turn to Mayor Rawlings and the City Council. Now.

Seriously, email Mayor Rawlings and the Council now, and forward this to a friend.

 

These folks will decide whether our parks are for chillin' or for drillin'

These folks will decide whether our parks are for chillin’ or for drillin’

When will they hold their vote? Well…..they had scheduled a vote on Jan. 23rd. Then it was Feb. 13th. Not it may be Feb. 27th. Will it change again? We’ll find out soon.

What are they voting on first, exactly? Authorization to allow fracking on city-owned parkland. Sounds like a bad idea, right, so why would we want to do this? That’s a great question for our City Manager, Mary Suhm.

Documents released yesterday evening by the city reveal that Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm signed a side deal with a gas-drilling company five years ago to help the company win drilling rights on city parkland, even though she had assured the City Council and park board that drilling on parkland would be banned.

Whatever this is, it isn’t democracy. Downwinders at Risk has a great summary here. As if that weren’t bad enough, the City Plan Commission may have crossed a legal line to get “reconsideration” vote through. The Dallas Business Journal has the story here. Again, this isn’t how our government is supposed to work for us. That’s why we need you to keep the pressure on City Hall, but turn it on Mayor Rawlings and the City Council. Do you have a relationship with your Council member? Call, email and meet with them to make it crystal clear you don’t want drilling rigs on our public parklands. Tell them you don’t want the city’s tenth largest source of hazardous air pollution to be built next to the city’s largest outdoor recreation area. Now’s your chance. Now’s our chance.

 

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Stop the Rawlings Refinery

Last December, residents learned that one of the proposed “gas drilling sites” in Northwest Dallas isn’t actually a drilling site at all. It’s a massive gas processing and compressor station facility, really, a gas refinery. The gas company, Trinity East, testified that it will pour 75 tons/year of hazardous pollution into our air. If that’s true, it would be the 10th-largest source of toxic air pollution in all of Dallas. This refinery is being proposed just 600 feet away from the city’s largest outdoor recreation area, the new $38 million Elm Fork Soccer Complex. It’s unbelievable.

This refinery would release toxic chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde and hydrogen sulfide FAR too close to where our children and families play

The “Rawlings Refinery” would release toxic chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde and hydrogen sulfide FAR too close to where our children and families play.

So what can you do about it? For starters, you can email the Dallas City Plan Commission now and tell them what a terrible idea this is. Dallas officials need to hear from residents as often as possible before they vote on this proposal. Next, you can attend the public hearing and testify against this poisonous plan in person:

Thursday, February 7th, 1:30 p.m.
Dallas City Hall, City Council Chambers
1500 Marilla, 6th Floor

The response to this shocking proposal, so far, has been complete silence. Dallas officials are simply denying that it exists, calling it a normal gas drilling operation. The Dallas Morning News seems to think that a plan to build one of the city’s largest polluters next to our new soccer complex isn’t “newsworthy”. Other interested reporters and officials are still talking about this as if it were just another proposed drilling site.

We need you to be the voice of reason. Send your message to the Dallas City Plan Commission, and forward this to a friend. Our kids shouldn’t be able to see a gas refinery from their soccer fields. They shouldn’t have to breathe toxic air pollution. How can something so obvious even be up for debate?

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Dallas makes a mockery of democracy

What do you do if you’re a gas drilling company and a key vote on whether to allow fracking in parks, near a school and soccer fields and in the Trinity River floodplain doesn’t go your way? Simple: make a back-room deal to undo the vote and get a “do-over” as if it had never happened. That’s what happened this week in Dallas when the City Plan Commission voted to reconsider the failed drilling applications in a move that was both a shame and a sham. Since three Commissioners who had previously voted against gas drilling permits could not be present, the vote to reconsider these applications passed 6-5. Oh, and no public testimony was allowed. Whatever this is, it isn’t democracy.

shameWatch the CBS News story here.

Read the Dallas Morning News story here.

Listen to the KERA story here.

Read the Dallas Observer story here.

So now the gas company gets another opportunity to convince Dallas officials that putting a natural gas refinery a few hundred feet away from the new Elm Fork Soccer Complex is perfect safe. They get another chance to argue that fracking is done on golf courses all over DFW and there’s nothing wrong with that. They get to keep pretending that fracking on the banks of the Trinity River, in its floodplain, doesn’t pose any risk at all.

But you know what? Dallas residents get the chance to put an end to this charade once and for all. If concerned citizens come back to City Hall and make their voices heard the way they did last month and this week, the City Plan Commission just might vote to deny these drilling applications for a second time. Then the gas company would really be in trouble.

Come to City Hall on February 7th at 1:30PM to stand up for clean air, healthy water and real democracy in Dallas.  Spread the word and ask others to come. Let’s finish this.

 

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