Dallas council votes 9-6 to enact gas drilling restrictions

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on December 11, 2013 at 6:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 11 at 6:39 PM

DALLAS –– The Dallas City Council voted 9-6 Wednesday to block gas drilling within 1,500 feet of a home, business or church. Drilling supporters say that effectively bans the process because few companies will try to adhere to such strict rules.

"Are you guys out of your mind?" asked an animated Bill Crowder, speaking to Dallas City Council members. "You're going to turn down an economic boon that gave Fort Worth $54 million last year?  $9.4 million went to Fort Worth ISD!"

Throughout the two-year debate about gas drilling in Dallas, there have been outbursts in council chambers, often from environmentalists adamantly opposed to hydraulic fracturing in urban areas. Wednesday, those opponents quietly accepted council's decision. The people who believe drilling should be allowed showed much more passion.

"We have a constitutional right to sell our minerals and we're taking it away with that ordinance," said councilman Sheffie Kadane, who voted against the regulations.

The ordinance adopted by council prohibits gas drilling within 1,500 feet of a home, business or church. Any deviation from that would require approval from two-thirds of the City Council. Drilling on city parkland is not banned, but each permit would also require individual approval from council. 

Dallas' restrictions make it among the most strict in North Texas. Arlington's ordinance allows for drilling up to 600 feet from a home, business or church. In Fort Worth, residents or business owners are notified if they're within 1,000 feet of a potential well site, but companies are allowed to drill up to 600 feet. Denton, meanwhile, allows drilling within 1,200 feet. 

Dallas' previous ordinance had a 300 foot setback rule. 

Some say no drillers will even try to adhere to the new regulations, meaning drilling is practically banned inside Dallas city limits. Nine council members voted for the tighter rules. Six council members –– Kadane, Jerry Allen, Lee Kleinman, Rick Callahan, Tennell Atkins, and Vonciel Jones Hill –– voted against the restrictions. 

"I've heard all the arguments. I've read all the papers that everyone has given me and I've come to the conclusion that it is illogical and unreasonable to attempt to disallow gas drilling in Dallas," said Vonciel Jones Hill, "and I believe that is what this motion does."

Drilling supporters say Dallas is losing out on an economic boon. But opponents, many of who spoke time after time after time during the two year debate, say there is an environmental cost.

Sharon Wilson said she used to live 1,200 feet from a well.  

"That's too close," she said. "I lost $80,000 in property value." 

Others in favor of the restrictions applauded the council's move.  

"You are elected by the city of Dallas’ residents to represent the city of Dallas’ residents. Your job and your responsibility is not to represent out of town business that comes in here trying to profit off the citizens," said one man.

Ed Ireland, Executive Director of the industry-funded Barnett Shale's Energy Education Council spoke briefly, reminding council there had been no instances of water pollution from the 19,000 wells already drilled. 

Mayor Mike Rawlings reminded the crowd that Wednesday's vote came after hearing 100 hours of public comment since 2011.  In the end, the new regulations passed.

Crowder warned the council will regret it.

"If you have a thousand people speaking against it, that's not even one percent. We have the right to drill on our own land. We can all say no. That is Texas law," he said.

Email twoodard@wfaa.com

 

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