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Dallas Gas Drilling Ordinance Could Be Tougher Than Task Force Recommendations

BJ Austin

It appears the Dallas Plan Commission is taking a tougher stand on gas drilling than the city’s drilling task force recommended. Plan Commissioners are crafting the new ordinance to regulate drilling in Dallas.

One of the first changes that grabbed consensus of the Plan Commission was an increase to the buffer zone or setback between gas wells and homes, businesses, schools, and recreational areas.  Plan Commissioners want 1500 feet, not the 1,000 recommended by the task force.

Environmentalist Jim Schermbeck that’s huge for those who do not want gas drilling on city park land.

“What the city staff really wants to do is still get those Trinity East permits done," Schermbeck said after a two-hour discussion of the Plan Commission. "And that’s going to be hard to do with that 1500 foot buffer zone around each well.”

In March, the Plan Commission denied, for the second time, Trinity East Energy’s request to drill on city park land in northwest Dallas.  Trinity East paid the city 20 million dollars more than five years ago for drilling leases, and Schermbeck says he expects push back on the bigger buffer zones from the city staff.

City Plan Commissioner Michael Anglin says there is a possibility the Commission will decide to ban drilling on park land altogether. But there’s also the possibility of drilling on parts that are not easily accessible and are not being used for recreation. Anglin says in that case, he’s concerned about preventing drilling from creeping closer to the so-called protected uses, like golf courses or hike and bike trails.

“When does unused park land become semi-used, then intensely used, then at what point have you reached the protected use,” Anglin asked fellow commissioners.

The Plan Commission will struggle with a long list of other issues at weekly meetings. At the next one, the focus is on drilling operations: noise, pollution, traffic and drilling hours. Commission Chairman Joe Alcantar says he wants to have a new ordinance to present for city council approval in September. 

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.