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Dallas City Council Nixes Gas Drilling On Parkland

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - After years of back-and-forth negotiations and some recent testy accusations, the issues of erecting natural gas wells and compressors in the city of Dallas failed late Wednesday afternoon at Dallas City Hall.  But the matter may not be over, as gas interests have previously indicated they might sue the city.

The sides were drawn up long ago. People with environmental concerns against people with visions of prosperity brought by tapping natural gas resources under Dallas soil. Opponents claimed the drilling process hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, will contaminate air and water.

“Once groundwater is contaminated with these fluids it will be there forever. I mean forever; there is no technology anywhere that can ever decontaminated it,” proclaimed Marjorie Steakley.  “The health effects of gas drilling is a neighborhood and a city-wide community concern,” echoed Claudia Meyer.

The projected sites are parkland and floodplains in northwest Dallas where it borders with Irving.  Irving City Council member Rose Cannaday warned the location could harm interests in that city.

Gas drilling opponent Eric Neilsen thought the proposed drilling was hypocritical.

“Parkland should not be subjected to this drilling. We can’t even get a porta-potty down at the standing wave and you want to put frack well in a flood plain,” he told the Dallas Council.

But drilling supporters argue the fracking process is safe, and if Dallas doesn’t tap the gas, someone else will.

A lobbyist for Trinity East, the company wanting to drill, spoke to the council.   Dallas Cothrum told members, “There’s gas drilling in the middle of Los Angeles.  There’s gas drilling right at the Grapevine Mills mall, one of the largest tourist destinations in the area.”

Tom Blanton, of Trinity East, warned if Dallas doesn’t act to claim gas under its soil, that neighboring communities might.  “Fort Worth has wells within 300 feet of restaurants, hotels, houses, parks, floodplains. Yes, even schools.”

Councilmembers like Sheffie Kadane balked at denying the permits, pointing out the city had already accepted money from Trinity East and other drilling speculators.

“This is a contract we’re dealing with—in my opinion we’re obligated to honor that contract,” he said.  Mayor Mike Rawlings also warned the city could be sued.

In the end the issue was shot down by a 9-6 vote.

The proposed Special Use drilling permits on which the council voted were backed by city staffers but got a “no” recommendation from the Dallas Plan Commission; because of that, in this case drilling supporters needed a council supermajority of 12 on the council to support it.

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