Dallas News to Dallas Mayor: Man Up
It’s been almost four weeks since the Dallas Plan Commission voted — for a second time — to deny applications for Trinity East to drill natural gas wells on three sites and build a gas-processing plant.
The next step is for the City Council to schedule its own hearing and then vote. This newspaper urged the Plan Commission to deny the permits and calls on the City Council to move posthaste on the recommendation.
Unfortunately, the council is showing no signs of life on this issue. In an interview last week, Mayor Mike Rawlings conceded that “we need to bring this to a head” and predicted that the council could begin to act “in weeks, not months.” The mayor also signaled that he and other council members are in no hurry and won’t act until City Manager Mary Suhm has explored all options.
It’s disturbing that the city seems to be on a timeline that will delay action until after the May municipal elections, when both Scott Griggs and Angela Hunt, the two most vocal critics of gas drilling, could be off the council. (Griggs is running against fellow council member Delia Jasso because of redistricting, and Hunt can’t seek re-election because of term limits).
The responsibility to resolve the drilling issue rests with this council, not a new council that will have a steep learning curve.
This stalemate is particularly ironic given that in early December, Rawlings told us that he wanted the full council to vote as soon as possible on Trinity East’s drilling permit. However, the Plan Commission’s “no” vote means that now the council needs a supermajority — 12 of its 15 members — to approve the Trinity East application.
The city began discussing gas leases in 2006 and signed leases with Trinity East in 2008, at a time when the city needed money to balance the budget. Trinity East, which gave the city $19 million for those leases, has been on hold since 2011 while the city discussed new drilling rules.
Late last year, Trinity East unveiled plans to drill on the surface of parkland, in violation of existing city policy, and to construct a compressor station. These developments, plus troubling questions about Suhm’s role in the review process and growing environmental concerns, led this newspaper to urge the Plan Commission to say no.
The continuing delay, with no details as to what purpose is being served other than political ones, is unfair to Trinity East, to the next City Council and to voters who want to know how their representatives line up on this issue before the May election.
The health and quality of life of all Dallas residents potentially rides on this decision. The City Council either needs to get on with it or give residents a clear explanation of why all we’re hearing is crickets.