Gas Drilling Controversy Lands at Dallas City Council

Opponents of natural gas drilling wore masks to show their concern for pollution

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The fight over natural gas well drilling at Dallas City Hall heated up Wednesday, with opponents getting thrown out for interrupting the meeting. (Published Wednesday, May 16, 2012)

    A gas drilling task force report finally arrived at the Dallas City Council, four years after the city accepted nearly $34 million from two companies for drilling leases on city property.

    Drilling opponents were thrown out of the City Council briefing for interrupting the meeting.

    Passion has been strong on both sides of the debate.

    The companies have been denied drilling permits even though they were solicited by the city and paid that up front money, as gas well supporters and opponents fought over what the drilling rules should be.

    Former Councilwoman Lois Finkelman led the task force appointed a year ago to sort it all out.

    "And I will tell you that there was indeed pressure," Finkelman said. "There was pressure from both sides."

    The task force report presented today was to have been finished in October.

    "The recommendations that you have before you provide a balance, what we hope is a reasonable approach to drilling, given what we currently know, based on what current scientific information is available," Finkelman told the City Council.

    Opponents complain the rules would allow drilling in parks, flood plains and within 300 feet of homes, far closer than other city's rules.

    "I don't think you want to be known in Dallas history as the council that sold Dallas residents down the river," said opponent Mary Warren.

    "That's a real concern that I have. We're setting this up and the floor is so low," said Councilman Scott Griggs, who represents Southwest Dallas areas that are a likely target for drillilng.

    Supporters want the royalties the city would earn and they say gas drilling can be safe.

    "I do think that gas drilling is an asset to the city of Dallas and to most of the cities and to the country. I believe that we are going to drill in the city," Councilman Tennell Atkins said.

    Atkins wants future income set aside for parks and other improvements and not mixed together with the city's general fund.

    Mayor Mike Rawlings said two more special council briefings will be held to consider all the options.

    One will be a public session where supporters and opponents get to make their case to the city council.

    Another will be a closed-door session with city lawyers about legal ramifications of the new rules and the leases already granted.

    "I want the facts to drive this and I'm in the process of gathering those facts and listening. Today is the beginning of that process for me," Rawlings said.

    The City Council takes a summer recess for the entire month of July, and members previously have said that their goal is to take a final vote before then.