UPDATE: Michael Anderson, an attorney for Trinity East Energy, spoke with CultureMap on March 12. The story has been changed to reflect that interview.
As the debate over the permissibility of natural gas drilling on Dallas parklands rages on, Trinity East Energy is picking a new fight. The Keystone Exploration subsidiary alleges that Texas Campaign for the Environment is spreading "baseless and groundless attacks" against the company.
In a February 25 cease and desist letter to TCE program director Zac Trahan, Trinity East took issue with the following statement: "This gas company has already drilled a well along the Trinity River and had a casing failure that may have contaminated underground water aquifers."
An attorney for Trinity East Energy called TCE's actions "unlawful and, at minimum, defamation under Texas law."
Public documents show that a casing failure did occur in an Irving well operated by Trinity East, but attorney Michael Anderson called the allegation of possible water contamination "absolutely false."
Anderson said that Trinity East was in compliance with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality rules, which are designed to protect fresh water aquifers even in the event of a casing failure.
"TCE's actions are unlawful and constitute, at minimum, defamation under Texas law," Anderson wrote. "In the event TCE continues to persist in its unlawful activity, Trinity East will have no choice but to file suit."
In a March 11 letter, Trahan responded to Anderson's claims.
"It is, by now, well-known that the purpose of casing a well is to protect groundwater," Trahan wrote. "Thus, when a casing failure occurs, it is not unreasonable to question whether this casing failure has placed groundwater resources at risk of contamination."
Trahan went on to say that there are few studies and no independent ones that show the effect of the casing failure. The statement in question presents the possibility of contamination but does not say that it definitely occurred.
Although not willing to retract or correct his initial comments on the Irving well, Trahan did offer the following supplemental information.
"This gas company has already drilled a well along the Trinity River that had a casing failure beneath our underground aquifers. The company reported that no groundwater contamination occurred as a result of this instance. No independent testing was required to verify whether our aquifers are fully protected."
Anderson says that statement doesn't satisfy his client but its first priority is to move forward with Trinity East's drilling applications before the City Plan Commission and the City Council.
"Trinity East doesn't mind having a fair discussion dealing with facts," Anderson says. "What it doesn't want are false statements out in the public."
The Special Use Permits that would allow Trinity East to drill on Dallas parklands will once again go before the Plan Commission on March 21.