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Baby,about last night… or, “it’s complicated”

August 12, 2010

Last night was just the beginning of a hopefully clear and concise dialogue between the city of Dallas and it’s residents. Residents from Oak Cliff to Farmers Branch came to listen to speakers present their findings, and their experiences in dealing with natural gas exploration.

About 15 minutes into the meeting, reactions from the audience members were reminiscent of those signature Steven Spielberg zoom shots featuring people’s faces after they have confronted something truly stunning. Sharon Wilson from Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project started off the evening with the basics of what gas production does to a community. Her partial listing of the 596 chemicals used in fracking set the tone of what was to follow. Her video of infrared  footage showing the toxins being released at  gas well sites caused reactions of shaking heads.  Dish mayor Calvin Tillman‘s riveting account of the spider web network of gas pipes throughout his town gave the audience members a little “shock and awe”. Telling the audience what the gas industry promises and what they deliver are more often than not, different.  He closed his presentation recalling the words of President Ronald Reagan when the president spoke of the US/Russian arms race: “Trust, but verify” when dealing with the gas industry.

Gary Hogan from NCTCA gave a first hand account of “living with the gas wells” in Tarrant county. His experience with neighborhood organizations has allowed him to help these groups navigate the very heavy job of negotiating with the industry. He implored the audience to reach out to one another and begin to organize themselves into a stronger voice of alarm. Cherelle Blazer from the Environmental Defense Fund eloquently remarked on the size of the audience and from what parts of the city showed up. Moving to Dallas from Tarrant county to escape the air quality of that area, she was quite stunned at the rather small size of the gathering. A chemist, scientist,  EPA and US Department of Commerce professional,using an “earth mother” approach allowed her to speak from her heart about the potential dangers that wait on the horizon for Dallas, if not immediately addressed.

A huge, and complicated issue for any community who has to make the decisions is, how to get the gas safely. This is not an easy subject for anyone “new” who has to learn in a very short amount of time, the many factors that go into gas production. The natural gas industry knows this, so it is up to the residents to dig for the truth, ask the hard questions, and then trust the civic leaders to make the right decisions. These applications sitting in the Dallas city hall’s “in box” will not sit for long waiting for approval. If it begins to appear that residential concerns are ignored, and the gas extraction process is expedited without stringent guidelines, then city leaders should not be surprised that when re-election time rolls around in 2011, they wake up the morning after, without a job.

To any civic leader who has aspirations of  a “bigger and brighter” future or the civic leader who decides to retire from the job after their term, the “legacy of compromise” is a complicated legacy indeed.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Never Signed a Lease and Never Will permalink
    August 13, 2010 2:00 pm

    Everyone should read Angela Hunt’s Blog post (from February 7, 2008):

    She has done a great job of summing it up…and she says so much about what so many of us haven’t heard from city leadership throughout the Barnett Shale in municipalities to the west of Dallas. Thank you, Angela, for your thoughts and your early warnings that seem to be on the verge of playing out in Dallas just like they have everywhere else in the Barnett Shale. Once the land is leased…it’s all over but the shoutin’ and her thoughts about all of it over 2 years ago are truly noteworthy.

  2. concerned64 permalink
    August 16, 2010 2:26 pm

    You’re exactly right. If the rest of the council had “stepped up to the plate” when they had the chance, we might be at a different point. But it is assumed that once Ms. Hunt spoke out, the person actually “running the show” (Mary Suhm) probably put everyone on “lock down” until they could figure out a strategy(that would be backpedaling)

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