After five years of heated debate over fracking, Dallas City Council members voted on August 28 to deny gas drilling permits to Trinity East Energy.
The City Council vote confirmed previous actions by the City Plan Commission, which twice denied Trinity East’s application for special use permits to drill in Dallas. Trinity East needed 12 out of 15 votes — a super-majority — to overturn the commission’s denials but only garnered nine.
Voting in favor of the permits were Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dwaine Caraway, Jennifer Staubach Gates, Jerry Allen, Rick Callahan, Lee Kleinman, Sheffie Kadane, Tennell Atkins and Vonciel Jones Hill. Voting against were Adam Medrano, Monica Alonzo, Philip Kingston, Sandy Greyson and Scott Griggs.
Trinity East needed 12 out of 15 votes to overturn the City Plan Commission’s denials but only garnered nine.
The vote followed a period of comments pro and con, with all of the pro coming from employees or representatives of Trinity East and the con coming from citizens.
Although public sentiment seemed clearly against the permits, the no vote brings the potential for lawsuits — a fact that Mayor Rawlings underscored in his thoughtful comments preceding the vote, in which he likened the situation to a poker game.
"I am personally opposed to urban gas drilling in Dallas," he said. "We continue to grow, and there are too many unknowns. To that end, I will support the efforts of the City Planning Commission on new ordinances to ensure safety.
"But today's vote is not about new gas standards or how I personally feel. Today is not about being pro or con drilling. We have a contract to the business, and we will be voting on the specificity of this situation.
"If one looked closely at this issue, they might see a metaphorical poker game being played, with the city of Dallas holding one hand, and Trinity East holding another hand. Fortunately, we don't have to watch ESPN to see the cards."
Rawlings and councilman Allen both surmised that Trinity East would not have the time or financial incentive to get drilling underway by the set deadline of February 15, 2014.
"But they have two cards," Rawlings said. "They have the emotional sentiment of anti-drilling groups. And they believe that sentiment will force this council to deny these SUPs. I predict there is no way Trinity East drills because it is not viable. Their only chance is the chance we deny these SUPs, and they get to sue the city."
The city has been embroiled in regulatory battles with Trinity East to determine how, when and if the company will be able to drill on the land it purchased in L.B. Houston Park. City code prohibits drilling on parklands and in the floodplain, both terms that describe the land in question.
In addition to a host of Dallas citizens, opposition speakers included Zac Trahan from Texas Campaign for the Environment and advocates such as Mary Warren. Irving City Council person Rose Cannaday also spoke against the vote, explaining that the district she represents was adjacent to the drill site. She made a plea for her constituency as well as wildlife and environmental issues.
Tom Blanton of Trinity East defended the venture, assuring that there were no health or safety issues and even declaring that he had personally drilled one of the first wells in Fort Worth.
With the city officially denying fracking in parks and the flood plain, there's the potential that Trinity East will sue, alleging the land was leased under false pretenses. For now, however, the case on fracking in Dallas is closed.