Dallas City Council Rejects Fracking

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Photo Courtesy of Mayor Mike Rawlings
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

After years of Dallas officials playing hot potato with three permits that would allow fracking within city limits for the first time, the City Council finally rejected the permits today. A city commission is still working on a new gas-drilling ordinance, but at least for now, Dallas is closed to fracking.

Dallas residents and environmental groups have been fighting Trinity East Energy, the company that would drill the wells, at City Hall for years. 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.

The audience, mostly fracking opponents, greeted today’s vote with prolonged applause. Nine councilmembers voted for granting the permits and six against, but the Council needed a supermajority (12 out of 15).

The City Council didn’t discuss the permits much, but Mayor Mike Rawlings did give a speech with an extended metaphor about poker. Echoing Councilman Jerry Allen’s claim that Trinity East would almost assuredly not actually drill on those sites because of falling natural gas prices, he said the City Council should “call [Trinity’s] bluff” and approve the permits. Rawlings said he’s personally against urban drilling, but argued Dallas residents will lose millions in court costs when Trinity East sues.

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.

Up next: The City Plan Commission will likely release an updated drilling ordinance in the coming months.

Priscila Mosqueda is a frequent contributor to the Observer, where she previously interned for what everyone agreed was far too long. She grew up in San Antonio and graduated with a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin in 2012. Her work has been published in the San Antonio Express-News, The Austin Chronicle, San Antonio Magazine and "Forty Acres of Fun," a book about the unique culture and traditions of the University of Texas.

  • SoberMoney

    Nine Dallas city council members voted FOR fracking in the city?

    Who are these people? The illegitimate and mentally challenged sons and daughters of Dick Cheney?

    • Edward Hartmann

      Close.. they’re the puppets of the Dallas Citizen’s Council

  • Tanachforme

    the one who voted against are fools

    • Wes_Scott

      No, YOU are the fool. The six who voted against the SUPs were doing their jobs. They listened to citizens’ concerns and votes according the what the majority of citizens expressing an opinion said. It’s called democracy, and if you don’t like it, then move the China. They are getting ready to frack everywhere there!

  • claytonauger

    Thanks for the coverage. Not many folks have caught on what’s happening in Dallas and how important it is.

  • Ofug

    To the anti-drillers: Fine, you won. Now repay the $50 million in up-front royalties the city was paid 10 years ago (plus interest).

    • erica from dallas

      Just because the city(Mary Suhm) made a shaky deal with the oil and gas guys taking 19 million dollars doesn’t mean we should allow fracking that will potentially poison our air and water and suck up approximately 5 million gallons of non-reusable water for each frack.,and marring our park land forever just so we can make a little money. What about the safety and health of our future generations? Pretty soon oil and gas will be history as new cleaner more efficient ways of creating power will be perfected

    • http://westchestergasette.blogspot.com/ WCGasette

      It’s called a “Bonus Check,” not up-front royalties. These checks weren’t paid 10 years ago. Where did you get that information? Bonus checks were being handed out to anyone and everyone across North Texas…even when drilling would never be conducted nearby. Leasing your minerals in the urban and suburban areas opened the door for the infrastructure that must inevitably go in. With a signed contract that gives the operator that access, it’s difficult to say later, “Uh, no, I don’t want that pipeline going through my front yard or that compressor station in my neighborhood.” Also, the operator always knew these Dallas permits would have to be approved by CPC and the City Council. Handing out bonus checks before you have “the deal in hand” is truly a very strange way to do business, isn’t it? Maybe it was just the way business worked to the West in 2006/2007 when the bonus checks were flying around…somebody clearly counted their eggs before they were hatched ~ in Dallas.

    • SoberMoney

      To the water poisoners and the polluters everywhere: Now pay the people for all the environmental destruction you have caused and the lives you have degraded with your fossil fuel extraction and the continuation of an ignorant and lazy energy policy.

    • Wes_Scott

      Are you really this out of touch with reality? NOBODY paid the City of Dallas $50 Million…PERIOD! Trinity East paid $19 Million for LAND LEASES that did NOT include a right to drill. Apparently, you are very short on facts. There was never a cent paid for “up-front royalties”, and I am curious as to where you got the false notion that such was ever the case.
      If you had a clue about the facts, then you would know that there is no way the city can lose a lawsuit because of the Home Rule authority under which Dallas operates and the wording of the lease which specifically stipulated that there was no guarantee of a right to drill. Everything you believe about this issue except for one single thing is false and inaccurate – WE WON! That much you got right.

    • Angelica

      Oh yeah because I’m sure it went to the awesome educational system that is DISD.

  • Wes_Scott

    In fairness and objectivity, I just want to set the record straight because the story missed the mark.

    Mary Suhm did NOT sign a secret deal telling Trinity East they would be allowed to drill. She signed a letter telling Trinity East that she and her office would use “all reasonable effort” to get ordinances changed that would allow them to drill. She specifically told them in that letter, and they acknowledged, that Trinity East would have to get SUPs approved by the CPC and then the City Council, and then they would have to get drilling permits from the City Council, before being allowed to drill. Those are what are called “police powers” in law, and they cannot legally be contracted away. Further, the City Manager lacks any authority to commit the city to such actions.

    What Mary Suhm did was unethical, but she did NOT tell Trinity East that they would be allowed to drill anywhere at any time. She had no power to make such a commitment.