By Bud Gillett, CBS 11 News

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dallas City Council doesn’t have a formal policy on natural gas drilling, but it is turning to a former council member to lead the city on the issue:  eight-year council veteran and Park Board President Lois Finkelman.

She was appointed by Interim Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway at Wednesday’s council briefing session.   While there are no proposed wells with gas permits issued by the city at this time, the Barnett Shale just touches some of the westernmost council districts and many residents are worried about some unwanted side effects of gas drilling, including possible air and water pollution.

Among them are Claudia and Ed Meyer, who live in the Mountain Creek area of southwest Oak Cliff.  “It’s something we treasure and a lot of our neighbors treasure—this kind of environment,” says Claudia, speaking of her home and her neighborhood.

The Meyer’s house home abuts rolling hills and nature trails in the Mountain Creek area.  They’re also 42-hundred feet from a proposed natural gas well at a busy nearby intersection.  Even closer is an elementary school where more than 500 children attend.  “We’re concerned about clean air and water,” says Ed Meyer.

“If there’s a leak there’s going to be toxic fumes in the air.”  Claudia adds, “The more that we found information and read information then we started wondering, ‘Is this good for our neighborhood?’ and we had big concerns.”   Ed is more straightforward.  “Personally I am opposed to a well there but I know it’s going to happen, but I just want to make sure it’s safe.”  He would like 24-hour air and water monitoring on any gas well.

The Meyers were among some twenty people attending the council briefing Wednesday.  They urged members to tread carefully as they decide on a natural gas drilling policy.  City staff outlined three possible pathways to proceed, but members quickly agreed on creating a task force, to be headed by former councilmember Finkelman.  “This creates a very solid, grounding foundation block for us as a council to move forward on,” said District 3 councilmember David Neumann.

Angela Hunt likened the task force’s importance as on a par with police and fire protection.  “This is another public health and safety issue that we simply have to invest in to take care of our residents,” she told fellow councilmembers.

There will be ten other task force members besides Finkelman.  Those will be chosen by an ad hoc committee of council members headed by Linda Koop.  No timetable was set for either the choosing of task force members or when they should come back to the council with recommendations.  But councilmembers promised the task force appointments would be as open and diverse as possible because there is potentially so much at stake.