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.