Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Dallas City Council Denies Permits for Fracking

A hydraulic fracturing rig in the Barnett Shale.

Photo by KUT News

It took years to reach a final decision, but on Wednesday the Dallas City Council denied several permits for a company hoping to drill within city limits. The company, Trinity East, had applied to drill and use hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” at several wells on city land, including a golf course.

While the permits were denied, the story isn’t over. As reporter BJ Austin at KERA Dallas notes, the city has already taken money from Trinity East, and could be on the hook since the permits were denied:

[Council member Philip] Kingston and five other council members voted no – denying the required 12 votes to approve the drilling. Mayor Mike Rawlings announced that he is personally is against gas drilling in Dallas.

“To paraphrase Ecclesiastes there is a place for everything under heaven and I don’t think that place for gas drilling is Dallas,” Rawlings explained.

But he voted to approve the permits. Rawlings warned that city would likely be sued for millions of dollars if the permits were denied. Trinity East paid the city $19 million in 2008 for the right to drill. And the mayor argued that the company probably wouldn’t drill anyway because of low natural gas prices, and without drilling the lease expires in February.

The Texas Observer looks at why the drilling plans were so controversial:

The permits were especially controversial because they would have allowed drilling on city-owned parkland in the floodplain – two places where drilling is currently banned. Things really came to a head when it came to light that City Manager Mary Suhm had struck a secret side-deal with the company, promising Trinity East that it would be able to drill while telling City Council the opposite.

Much like they’ve done in the past, Trinity East representatives and other fracking supporters basically implied that all the people who testified against the permits were delusional, emotional children who didn’t have the capacity to comprehend science. One fracking proponent very sarcastically said, “God bless their souls—they’re trying to do the right thing and save the planet.”

Councilman Philip Kingston objected to the implication that drilling opponents were fact-free and emotional.

“I’ve done a year’s worth of research on this, I’ve visited drill sites,” Kingston said. “I’ll be opposing his motion [to approve the permits] out of rational thought,” he added to applause from the audience.

The Trinity East drilling permits denied this week were but one facet in a larger issue facing Dallas: How to regulate drilling and fracking within city limits.


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